Universities UK (UUK) has released the long-awaited Knowledge Exchange (KE) Concordat to ensure that universities and other providers of higher education and research work as effectively as possible with each other, with businesses and with other organisations. This comes at a vital time as the UK continues to fight back against COVID-19 and as PraxisAuril members demonstrate the importance of knowledge exchange to local and national economic and social outcomes. The UUK release states that the Concordat will "provide a better structure for the sharing and development of life-saving research and in-demand skills by outlining good practice and showing what works, helping the UK economy prosper and enhancing society".
UK universities received £4.9 billion from knowledge exchange activities with partners in 2018-19, helping fund activities to boost scientific, technological, medical and cultural breakthroughs. The breadth of ways in which KE is achieved has been well demonstrated by the response to the current COVID-19 crisis. The many contributions by universities, highlighted in the #WeAreTogether campaign, includes vital research into tests and vaccines, protective equipment has been developed and shared, healthcare students have graduated early and enrolled in the NHS and university staff have used their knowledge and skills in different ways to support the fightback and their students.
Sean Fielding, Chair of PraxisAuril and a member of the Concordat Steering Group said:
"The UK is already one of the best countries in the world for turning good ideas from the knowledge base into new products and services and generating new concepts for policymakers. The Concordat should help the spread of good practice and lead to constant improvement."
More effective partnerships between universities and businesses will demonstrate to UK government that the sector is playing an active role in helping reach the target spend of 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027. This, in turn, will be vital in the recovery of the UK from the current crisis and ensure that UK remains a global leader in addressing the challenges that lie ahead.
PraxisAuril members have unique insight into the day-to-day practicalities of engagement between universities, research organisations and external research users of many kinds. They will be responsible for articulating the role and remit of KE in their own institutions, and driving the implementation of the Concordat as defined by institutional leaders. PraxisAuril advocates strongly for diversity of KE missions and strategies, supporting a model of KE that allows institutions to play to their strengths and resources. This includes collaboration with other institutions - as in the Connected Capability fund projects - and exploring less familiar modes of KE as in the recently announced KE projects funded by the Office for Students.
The Concordat has its roots in the McMillan review of Technology Transfer (2016) to which many PraxisAuril members contributed. The McMillan review emphasised the importance of leadership in KE PraxisAuril's Chair, Sean Fielding, is a member of the UUK & Research England KE Concordat Task and Finish Group. You can read his recent blog about the importance of KE to the UK's recovery. Phil Clare, Deputy Director, Research Services (Knowledge Exchange & Engagement), University of Oxford, and PraxisAuril Ambassador, will Chair the Concordat Evaluation Panel.