The Government's "Plan for Growth: Science and Innovation Strategy" sets out to be a long-term strategy to make the UK "the best place in the world for science and business".
Praxis Unico welcomes the support for universities in developing partnerships and knowledge exchange through HEFCE’s Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF), and BIS’s commitment to support "a fully rounded approach to funding all forms of knowledge exchange, with all forms of partner, including recurrent funding for knowledge exchange through HEIF".
As part of that "rounded approach The Science and Innovation Strategy asks HEFCE to develop a framework to demonstrate good performance and practice in knowledge exchange activities and PraxisUnico looks forward to working with HEFCE in support of this endeavour.
As the report recognises HEIF has been successful in delivering a return on the public investment in knowledge exchange of £6.30 gross additional income generated for universities from every £1 invested over the period 2003-2012. While the plan commits firm budgets to growing the infrastructure Catalysts and school education programmes no specific figures have been attached to HEIF.
For universities to continue to have the capability to engage effectively with a wide range of partner organisations and businesses this funding must be protected. Additionally while the strategy rightly focuses on science and the work of Innovate UK Praxis Unico is concerned at the lack of specific information about the Government’s future commitment to support universities directly in their work with business.
The REF exercise showed that on average 30% of UK university impact is "world-leading" with a further 46% "internationally recognised”. If the UK is set to aspire to be "the best place in the world for science and business" it is essential that support for universities in knowledge exchange such as HEIF is protected in order to continue to deliver substantial levels of economic growth and return.
While we acknowledge that the Government has committed £113 million for HEIF in 2015-16 from the Science Budget (set out in the HEFCE Grant Letter for 2014-15) the strategy notes the importance of long-term HEFCE funding for knowledge exchange.
It is difficult for the detail of the knowledge exchange funding to be explored at this time but we hope that the priorities of the next Government and the outcomes of the next Spending Review reflect the value of investment recognised in this report and the REF. Clarity on this issue would be welcomed as early as possible.