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Knowledge Exchange (KE) is about enhancing the contribution higher education (HE) makes to both the economy as well as wider society. It includes research partnerships between universities, businesses, public and third sector areas asw ell as the development of skills within employers, enterprise, entrepreneurial development and local growth, regeneration and engagement.
But how does that knowledge flow at the moment and could there be better or new ways of supporting knowledge exchange? That was the question set by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (now part of Research England). Research Consulting were asked by HEFCE to undertake a small-scale expert study to identify good practice in knowledge exchange, in support of a proposed knowledge exchange framework. Through a review of existing KE materials and consultation with key stakeholders, we identified gaps in the current landscape and assessed the potential value of developing a new store of knowledge exchange materials.
We reviewed almost 500 potential sources during this project, identifying, more than 50 UK and overseas bodies providing KE guidance and support. Government bodies produced just under a third of the most valuable materials, having an important role to play as ‘honest brokers’. There are also well-established ‘communities of practice’ supporting different aspects of knowledge exchange, with interaction between and across these communities.
We looked at the sources of effective practice and categorised these into areas such as resource centres, databases and tools, reports and how-to guides. Particular consideration was given to the availability of effective practice materials in the area of intellectual property and research contracts.
We were asked to evaluate the value of setting up a central store of key materials relating to knowledge exchange. Options around this ranged from a simple, static resource, to a fully curated knowledge-sharing platform. We concluded that at the time the business case remained unproved and we recommended that further work was required.
This work for HEFCE was carried out in 2016. It was later cited in an influential report on knowledge exchange authored by Professor Trevor McMillan, vice-chancellor of Keele University, who has an ongoing national role in knowledge exchange leadership.