PraxisUnico's Year in Review

Tamsin Mann, PraxisUnico's Policy Officer, has a look at the year in review.

We have been working hard to influence and respond to the changes going on in the world this year. While training and events are a key part of our work, we highlight some of the Advocacy activity undertaken during 2016, a year which will be memorable for all sorts of reasons.


January: Directors’ Dinner with Lita Nelsen

This group met to share member research outputs, maintain cross-Atlantic links and develop advocacy messages. Lita, a co-founder of PraxisUnico Courses Ltd, retired from the MIT Technology Licensing Office in mid-2016 but remains a PrU Patron and continues to contribute to the national debate on technology transfer and commercialisation.


February: State Aid report launch

AURIL and PraxisUnico launched a ‘Guide to State Aid in Research, Development and Innovation’ for the university sector. The guide, lead authored by Dave Bembo, was prepared in order to inform universities which are active in R&D and innovation about State Aid legislation in order that any associated risks can be assessed and mitigated. The Guide is an excellent example of our collective membership using professional expertise and knowledge to inform and educate the sector and its stakeholders.


March: Launch of the report ‘Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation: The state of the UK profession in UK Higher Education’

PraxisUnico commissioned this national survey of KEC practitioners and Higher Education institutions in late 2015 to explore the roles and experiences of KEC professionals and the institutional environments in which they work. This was the first national survey of KEC professionals’ day-to-day work, responsibilities, skills, issues and concerns. We hope to run the survey every two years to promote the changing nature of the profession and keep professional skills needs up to date.


April: Joint Directors’ Forum with AURIL and ARMA

Heads of Office were presented with reports from the ‘Best Practice’ and ‘Benchmarking’ strands of HEFCE’s Knowledge Exchange Framework. They also heard from Professor Alan Hughes on his survey of academic motivations for knowledge exchange.


May: Submission to the Government’s National Innovation Plan consultation 

PraxisUnico highlighted the contribution of the research base through innovation, commercialisation and collaboration; underlining the importance of personal and institutional relationships at local, national and international levels. We emphasised the success of university-business interactions, in spite of persistent negative perceptions, and cautioned against over-focus on the number of spin-outs as a measure of successful enterprise and innovation.


June: PraxisUnico at UIIN 2016, Amsterdam 

Headline findings from PraxisUnico’s research into the UK’s KEC professional base were presented at this European forum on university-industry innovation.


August: Select Committee Inquiry ‘Leaving the EU: implications and opportunities for science and research’

PraxisUnico contributed to an ARMA-led submission to this inquiry (August).


August - October: Kathryn Walsh (Loughborough), PraxisUnico, and Andrew Stephenson (Reading), AURIL, secondment at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

This was a unique opportunity to understand the priorities of this government department at a time of significant changes in government following Brexit and the incoming May government, and a valuable 


Septtember: PraxisUnico identified as a key sector stakeholder in Professor Trevor McMillan’s report into Technology Transfer for HEFCE (September)

The McMillan report, to which several PraxisUnico and AURIL members contributed, focused on a small but contentious area of knowledge exchange for its first ‘deep dive’ into best practice. PraxisUnico was particularly pleased to see the emphasis on preserving diversity within the sector, rather than imposing a ‘one size fits all’ mechanism for commercialisation, and the importance of institutional leadership in setting priorities for KE activities. We will work with identified sector stakeholders to act on the recommendations during 2017.


September: Select Committee Inquiry ‘Managing IP and Technology Transfer’

PraxisUnico led a joint submission with AURIL to this Inquiry, launched in July 2016. The Inquiry picked up on points made by Dame Anne Dowling in her review of university-business relations and on discussions about the role of universities in the commercialisation of their research work in an earlier Select Committee inquiry on Graphene . The Committee invited written evidence on how well this system works and what measures are needed to improve it’. PraxisUnico’s submission sought to celebrate the success of the UK’s technology transfer sector whilst highlighting the regulatory restrictions, and constraints that universities work within on the demand and supply sides: 

“There is a view that universities are good at research but poor at turning research into partnership and opportunity. Successive government reviews have revealed that the opposite is true. The UK’s place in global innovation rankings is high and the UK system is at least as productive as the US and outperforms the US on some measures... Total income generated from collaboration with external partners has now reached £4.2bn pa and provides close to £10 return on every £1 invested11, demonstrating the value that businesses place on such interactions.”


October: Consultation on PrU-AURIL coming together made at AURIL’s annual conference

Angela Kukula, PraxisUnico Chair, and Carol Baron, AURIL Chair, announced a consultation on proposals to bring the two organisations together in a single professional membership organisation that will represent the spectrum of Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation activities. The response to this consultation was very positive, and we look forward to bringing you news of how that will be taken forward in 2017.


October: HEFCE KE Framework portal launch

PraxisUnico and its members have been active contributors to HEFCE’s KE Framework and we worked closely with the agency in advance of the portal launch this month.


November: Select Committee appearance

Dr Phil Clare (Oxford) represented PrU in front of the HoC Science & Technology Select Committee for its inquiry into ‘Managing IP and Technology Transfer’. PrU members Dr Tony Raven (Cambridge Enterprise), and Dr Claire Brady (Edinburgh Innovation) and Mark Andersen (Andersen Law LLP) represented their institutions on subsequent panels.


December: Training Course ‘Knowledge Exchange in the Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities’

This was our first joint course with European partners, ASTP-Proton, and brought over 40 delegates from nine European countries participated in two days of lively talks, discussions and exercises to explore KEC challenges and opportunities specific to these disciplinary areas. This course has helped to emphasise this important area of Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation, and enabled sharing of best practice.


These are just some highlights of the Advocacy work completed in 2016; during 2017, we will continue to advocate on behalf of the sector. We are looking ahead to the Select Committee report (due around Easter); the Consultation on the Industrial Strategy; the REF Consultation; and the Government's official response to the Dowling Review, amongst other activities which we will are proactively involved with, and will bring you further updates next year. Thanks to all our members who have contributed to and informed our work in 2016, and we wish you all a Happy New Year!