PraxisAuril and the National Centre for Universities and Business, (NCUB) have a lot in common in both supporting the UK’s big ambitions for R&D investment and knowing that partnerships between UK universities and business are key to addressing the challenges facing society and industry today.
The UK has many successful academic industrial partnerships to celebrate and PraxisAuril members are clearly leaders in good practice in this. But if we want to raise the UK’s R&D investment to the OECD average then we need to do more. Successes should be celebrated and news of the great work that is happening across the UK should be more widely shared to inspire growth in the relatively small number of companies making up the lion’s share of R&D spend in the UK. Only around 12% of firms that are ‘innovating’ currently cooperate with a university, and we are all working hard to grow this proportion to supercharge innovation throughout the UK.
Single access point
To support those companies, and those working in knowledge exchange, such as PraxisAuril members, the NCUB developed a simple idea: one digital access point to the wealth of knowledge within UK academia. konfer simplifies the start of the collaboration journey for firms by giving easy access to experts; research; grant funding opportunities; university equipment and facilities. And, our most recent addition is UK businesses we think are likely to be interested in innovating and working with universities.
Latest release, latest tech
Konfer’s alpha and beta test releases proved the concept that the wealth of material available across the UK could be brought into one digital home. Machine learning and natural language processing in the latest release give even easier access to the host of information across 23 industry sectors in the UK. More than a million research papers, expert profiles and other data assets now incorporate topic and concept analysis, enabling unique search and discovery capabilities. And, an enhanced user experience facilitates konfer’s expanded capability connecting industry and academia.
We’re excited by the latest addition to konfer. The business directory includes businesses of all sizes from around the UK. Using konfer categories they can also be searched and filtered using a number of criteria. Using public data konfer has so far incorporated over 27,000 companies that we believe are likely to benefit from opportunities in relation to innovation grant funding and/or university collaboration, which is why we also include details of company research activities, including grant funded research, where available.
Sharing collaboration opportunities
Konfer is not just a static data set that can be intelligently interrogated, although it is obviously that. It also pushes out business-led collaboration opportunities to all UK universities and is now processing university led collaborations to ‘smart-match’ with sections of the business directory. Recent opportunities have ranged from a healthcare start-up, through an open innovation call from Severn Trent, to a £3 million grant fund from the Rail Safety and Standards Board. And, any registered user can create new opportunities and respond to those already published.
Konfer is better than ever, but we want it to be more, so further features are in the pipeline to support our users in UK universities and businesses. An expanded funding module to promote more of the R&D funding opportunities available in the UK and an improved user dashboard are currently in development. All konfer’s development features aim to maximise engagement between universities and business, supporting the important work of Praxisauril members to help build a more innovative and inclusive future for the UK.
Developed, operated and managed by the National Centre of Universities and Business (NCUB) in partnership with Research England and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) konfer is free to use, so I encourage PraxisAuril members to explore konfer as a useful addition to your toolbox.