The Knowledge Exchange Concordat: published but not yet activated

Links between industry, community, and universities have supported responses to the Covid-19 crisis. Trevor McMillan, who chaired the group that developed it, introduces a new Concordat to support these links in future.

The significant role of universities in delivering against key policies for social development and economic growth is well recognised.

How could it be otherwise during the Covid-19 crisis in which staff and students have responded so magnificently not only to the challenges within universities but, importantly, to the challenges within the communities we work? It is important to remember that these responses have been made that bit easier by the connections and partnerships that exist. Every university has engaged in a way that makes best use of its talents, resources and expertise as well being targeted at the specific needs of those around us.

A supporting framework

This is exactly the principle behind the Knowledge Exchange Concordat, published today by Universities UK and GuildHE.

It was due to launch, on a dedicated website hosted by the National Centre for Universities & Business (NCUB), alongside the description of a process that would ask institutions to sign up to the principles and commit to taking part in the process designed to support improvement in knowledge exchange (KE). In the context of the current global emergency it would be inappropriate for us to introduce the detailed process at this stage. It will follow later in the year.

Ultimately, engagement with the concordat using the data analysis from the Knowledge Exchange Framework will be integrated into the university’s justification for Higher Education Innovation Fund funding in England and recognised in other ways within the devolved nations. But that’s for another day.

Maximising impact

To remind you, the overall request for a Knowledge Exchange Framework came from government in 2014 and the initial work we did to prepare for that led to the publication of “University Knowledge Exchange (KE) Framework: good practice in technology transfer” in September 2016. Recommendations of that report included the need to recognise the appropriateness of a lack of a standard pattern of KE in every institution, the importance of the environment in which an institution exists, the influence of the portfolio of an institution and the importance of senior leadership supporting high-quality KE with a commitment to continuous improvement.

These conclusions were recognised by government within the industrial strategy and support from ministers for this process has been clear and welcome, including from  Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

Universities all have different strengths and we are committed to applying them to maximise their impact. When we are through the acute stages of the Covid-19 pandemic there will be the need for an enormous recovery programme to turn around the social and economic deficits that will be left by the current crisis. Universities will have a critical role in this, by engaging staff from right across our disciplinary base.

Hopefully, the Knowledge Exchange Concordat will provide a framework in which we can, as universities, ensure that we have the approaches in place to facilitate our staff and students to continue to have a major impact.

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