Knowledge Transfer Policy Bodies

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AURIL is the Association for University Research and Industry Links. It represents the views of knowledge transfer professionals to government, industry, funders and stakeholders at all levels, operates a mailbase forum to help professionals exchange views, runs Continual Professional Development programmes and has created an Institute of Knowledge Transfer, which is a private company. It is currently "looking at [its] delivery mechanisms" [AURIL 2007].

The Council for Science and Technology[edit]

The Council for Science and Technology wrote to the Treasury in September 2006, setting "out the challenge for Government to understand service company needs, and to foster innovation by finding ways to connect them to the research base" (CST 2006). It recommended that the Government Departments should work together to 'facilitate value-creating interactions' focusing on key segments of the service sector. It also called for 'mechanisms to reward academics who collaborate successfully' and a focus on the demand side of knowledge transfer: to help service sector to identify their needs and search for academic partners for knowledge transfer.

Council for Industry and Higher Education[edit]

The Council for Industry and Higher Education is a high level partnership between leading people from a wide range of businesses, universities and colleges

Department of Education and Learning Northern Ireland[edit]

The Department of Education and Learning Northern Ireland (DELNI) includes increased FE business support and SME engagement in the aims for its planned FE sector reforms (HM Treasury 2007).

Department for Education and Skills[edit]

Research commissioned in 2005 by the DfES and the Learning and Skills Council explored the potential for FE knowledge transfer in England. They concluded that “FE providers possess the intellectual capital, equipment and facilities to provide low-cost support for innovation that could benefit local companies and the economy more generally”. Industry perceives that FE colleges might have "distinctive advantages in business support, including local knowledge, a practical rather than an academic approach, readily accessible subject specialists and technical facilities and equipment. We agree that there is considerable scope for FE colleges to contribute to innovation, and enhance their reputation as high-quality business-support partners" (HM Treasury 2007).

HM Treasury[edit]

HM Treasury commissioned the Lambert Review [HM Treasury 2003]. This report made “a series of recommendations aimed at smoothing out the path between Britain’s strong science base and the business community.” The Lambert Review concluded that the UK's dual support system acts as a disincentive to business-university collaboration [HM Treasury 2003, p5]. and that the biggest single challenge for knowledge transfer is in boosting the demand for research from non-academic communities, rather in increasing the supply of ideas and services from universities [p10]. The Treasury also commissioned the Baker Report (HM Treasury 1999) which concluded that efforts to stimulate knowledge transfer required research units which saw this activity as a key part of their mission. Some organisations take a different view: "The transfer of knowledge from the science base to support the knowledge economy... is not part of the core mission of the research councils" [UUK 2006]

Higher Education Council for England[edit]

Since 2001, the main university support mechanism for research exploitation has been the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) This includes support for the "commercialisation of intellectual property, business development and brokerage, student enterprise and the incubation of new knowledge-intensive businesses" (HM Treasury 2007). As Lord Sainsbury's recent review states, one of the problems with early HEIF arrangements was that "HEIF money was initially allocated on the basis of a competition... [which] meant that knowledge transfer staff could only be offered short-term contracts due to the unpredictable nature of the funding" (HM Treasury 2007).

In 2007, the Sainsbury Review suggested that the next stage of development for HEIF should aim to "increase knowledge transfer from business-facing universities to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)", using a "predictable formula.. [to] help universities plan for the longer term" (HM Treasury 2007).

The Sainsbury Reviewers have "devised and discussed with DIUS and HEFCE a formula that gives less weight to the size of the university and more to income received from SMEs. This should result in the large research universities getting slightly more money in HEIF4, and many other universities getting larger sums, with an incentive for all to do more work with SMEs. [They] recommend that this formula be adopted for HEIF4" (HM Treasury 2007).

Higher Education Council for Wales[edit]

This covers knowledge transfer with both higher and further education and is developing strategies to increase FE business support (HM Treasury 2007).

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee[edit]

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published its Third Report in June 2006 Research Council support for Knowledge Transfer together with the associated oral evidence. See especially, the linear model of research/innovation "the Research Councils may sit at the ‘push’ end of the research chain" [House of Commons 2006]. The Committee are particularly keen on flexible schemes [House of Commons 2006].

Learning and Skills Council[edit]

The Office of Science and Innovation[edit]

The Office of Science and Innovation within the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills published the Warry Report ('Increasing the economic impact of the Research Councils') in July 2006. The report recommended that the Research Councils should: expand incentives for researchers to participate in knowledge transfer; foster the development of partnerships between research groups in the UK and overseas centres of excellence; encourage and reward two-way secondments between the research base and business; and encourage the universities to make enterprise training widely available for researchers in all disciplines. In October 2006 The Office of Science and Innovation also responded to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's Report on Research Council Support for Knowledge Transfer.

The Regional Development Agencies[edit]

In England, the Regional Development Agencies were created to assist economic development and regeneration in different regions. The Department of Communities and Local Government retains policy responsibility for the regeneration initiatives delivered by the RDAs. The other organisations listed below serve similar needs in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Northwest Regional Development Agency

Yorkshire Forward


Advantage West Midlands

East of England Development Agency

South West of England Development Agency

South East England Development Agency

London Development Agency

Scottish Enterprise

Highlands and Islands Enterprise Network

International Business Wales

The Welsh Assembly's Department of Enterprise, Innovation and Networks is "playing a key role in this planning process, particularly through active engagement in the regions, where Spatial Plan Co-ordinators are being appointed to co-ordinate area plans and actions" (DEIN Business Plan 2006)

Welsh Development Agency The Welsh Development Agency offers funding via the Knowledge Exploitation Fund.

Invest Northern Ireland

The Research Councils[edit]

Research Councils UK published its Knowledge Transfer Action Plan, 'Increasing the Economic Impact of the Research Councils' in January 2007. This sets out how the Research Councils will take forward the Warry Report’s recommendations. Since then RCUK has commissioned a survey of users, and a study to establish a baseline assessment of the economic impact of the Research Councils.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has a wide definition of knowledge transfer, including business interactions, as well as knowledge interaction with other audiences, including the public, policy and voluntary sectors. It also recognises intermediary organisations as knowledge transfer players, enabling, for example, knowledge interaction with the museums and galleries and heritage sectors; and supports knowledge transfer media (e.g. high-quality content for print, film, digital and broadcasting media) as it recognises that knowledge is transferred through many different publicly available media. This broader definition thus encompassess public engagement and understanding.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has a programme of knowledge transfer and generation, which it understands as "the industrial uptake of new science and the exchange of knowledge" (BBRSC 2007). It has produced a BBSRC Exploitation Guide booklet to help academics with commercialisation. It takes the view that commercial activity, for the sector in which the Council operates, is best pursued by the research generator.

The Economic and Social Research Council

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

The Medical Research Council

The Natural Environment Research Council

The Science and Technology Facilities Council has a "Knowledge Exchange" programme, which "will become a distinctive strength of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, second only to the mission of supporting and conducting excellent scientific and engineering research." (STFC 2007). It is pursuing its knowledge exchange strategy through its work in Science & Innovation Campuses, Education, interactions with industry and commercialisation activities, training and capacity building, brokering and strategic partnerships, advisory bodies, institute activity, Publicity and funding opportunities, which include the following schemes: Discipline Hoppers, Innovative Technology Fund Awards, DIUS Technology Programme, Enterprise Fellowships, the Follow on Fund, Rainbow Seed Fund, Partnership Schemes, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and Research in Industry Funding. Its KITE club runs an active programme of workshops and events for academics, industrialists and other interested research and technology organisations. The topics covered can include focus on specific technology themes, core science projects and business advice.

Scottish Funding Council[edit]

The Scottish Funding Council allocates knowledge transfer support using a a set of metrics developed with Universities Scotland’s Research and Commercialisation Committee, to inform the allocation of Knowledge Transfer Grants. These metrics apply to both higher and further education establishments. In 2006-07, the SFC will allocate £16 million through the Knowledge Transfer Grant ( SFC 2006).

The SFC’s Research and Knowledge Transfer Committee is currently looking at cultural engagement and Universities Scotland has established a working group to develop metrics to measure cultural engagement (Magee 2006). The SFC's knowledge transfer strategy is articulated in its strategic plan: Corporate Plan 2006-09 Learning and innovation: helping to deliver Scotland’s strategy for the future.

The Technology Strategy Board[edit]

The Technology Strategy Board in responsible for promoting and supporting research, development and exploitation of technology and innovation for the benefit of business [TSB 2007]. It is responsible for collaborative R&D competitions, Knowledge Transfer Networks, and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and is sponsored by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The Government views the TSB's primary aim as not being about the creation of knowledge but about "the translation of knowledge into innovation and new and improved products and services" [DTI 2007] At present the Technology Strategy Board as a 'predominantly manufacturing focus' [CST 2006]. The Council for Science and Technology requested that this should extended to include service industries [CST 2006], a request that was supported in the recent Sainsbury Review (HM Treasury 2007).

The Review also announced:

  • a new leadership role for the Technology Strategy Board Working with the RDAs, the Research Councils and government departments to "co-ordinate public sector support for technological innovation, leverage public sector resources and simplify access to funds for business" (HM Treasury 2007).
  • a series of workshops, to be run by the Technology Strategy Board, in particular service sectors considering service innovations. These events will cover financial services, retail and logistics, design services, the service “wraparound”, and manufacturing and environmental services.
  • that the Technology Strategy Board will set up "a business-led Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) for the creative industries, established along the lines of existing KTNs". The Review says that "how it engages, the services it offers and the models of attending, accessing and networking will be geared to the specific needs of creative businesses"
  • that DBERR will set up five industry-led action groups to identify innovation in them and share the lessons of the UK’s best. "The groups are being developed in partnership with NESTA, with the first looking at the retail sector in partnership with the British Retail Consortium. Other areas being considered with industry include transport logistics, business services, environmental services and the construction industries" (HM Treasury 2007).