Today Research England is publishing report summarising how universities are working to deliver the Government's Industrial Strategy. This focusses on use of the additional funds provided by Government for Research England to allocate for knowledge exchange through Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF).
Today’s published report demonstrates the importance of HEIF to deliver the Government’s priorities in the Industrial Strategy, and to support and develop capacity, capability and good practice in commercialization.
I hope the report, and particularly it's case studies, will provide useful insights for the knowledge exchange professionals who are members of PraxisAuril.
Four things strike me as important from this evidence and analysis.
First I have been assured by the evidence provided by universities that they are using funding effectively, focusing particularly on different dimensions to the commercialisation system.
But evidence demonstrates that that system is intrinsically complex.
Universities need to manage tailored relationships with individual businesses. They also need to invest in the local, industrial, technological and international networks that underpin successful commercialisation. These networks are means to identify relevant partners, funders and customers, to source complementary assets (as example, access to finance) and to build shared processes and good practices.
Second, place is very important to a great number and range of universities.
Local partners or local developments and initiatives feature in HEIF plans of 79 out of 103 HEIs. This includes references to Local and Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships, but also to major local programmes and developments, such as Science Innovation Audits and local Growth Hubs.
Local partners and initiatives also feature in plans of a very wide range of research and teaching intensive HEIs.
A focus on place is very important to many universities, both because it is a means to develop the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” necessary for effective commercialisation, and because many universities seek to serve local economies and communities in their knowledge exchange, in their “anchor” roles.
Third, Innovate UK is recognised throughout the HE sector as a valued partner in commercialisation.
Plans of 71 out of 103 HEIs feature references to Innovate UK or its related organisations (Catapults and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN)) or major programmes (such as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)). This compares with our last analysis of linkages between universities and Innovate UK, when, in 2012, only 20 HEIs referenced Innovate UK, in its previous form as the Technology Strategy Body.
Universities welcome the great range of contributions made by Innovate UK to commercialization, including as a source of linkages with businesses, as a supporter and funder for university business partners and as a resource for investor links.
And fourth and finally, Industrial Strategy funds have enabled universities to try new approaches to technology transfer - and for some, for the first time. The report gives many inspiring examples of innovative developments in the inter-section of creativity and technology, as well case studies from across the HE sector demonstrating new ideas and new technologies responding to Government priority areas in the Industrial Strategy.
As well as HEIF, Research England's Connecting Capability Fund is playing a critical part to help share good practice and expertise across universities.
The report shows that there is fertile ground for the work of PraxisAuril to support the wider community of practitioners in knowledge exchange. Research England looks forward to continuing our close partnership with PraxisAuril, to address opportunities and challenges in commercialization, and wider knowledge exchange. Our partnership should also be an enabler for universities in future to make an even greater contribution to delivery of the Industrial Strategy, to achieving the Government’s 2.4% R&D challenge and to spreading the benefits of research and innovation around the nation.