Keele joins concordat improving links between universities and businesses to further develop societal and economic impact

A new concordat has been established for universities to build on their leading role in society and develop links between UK institutions, industry and local communities by committing to share information, knowledge and skills.

The Knowledge Exchange Concordat, published today, will help universities and other providers of higher education and research work more effectively with each other, businesses and other organisations at a vital time as the UK continues to fight back against Covid-19. It will provide a better structure for the sharing and development of life-saving research and in-demand skills by outlining good practice and showing what works, helping the UK economy prosper and enhancing society.

The concordat, which outlines good practice and eight major guiding principles for institutions to follow, has been drafted by Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University and Chair of the UUK and Research England KE Concordat Task and Finish Group. It is delivered by Universities UK and GuildHE, and supported by Research England and the National Centre for Universities and Business.

Knowledge exchange (KE) refers to any action through which knowledge and research is shared between universities and partner organisations and turned into impact in society and the economy. The breadth of ways in which this is achieved has been well demonstrated by the response to the current Covid-19 crisis.

The many contributions by universities, highlighted in the #WeAreTogether campaign, includes vital research into tests and vaccines, protective equipment has been developed and shared, healthcare students have graduated early and enrolled in the NHS and university staff have used their knowledge and skills in different ways to support the fightback and their students.

UK universities received £4.9 billion from knowledge exchange activities in 2018-19, helping fund activities to boost scientific, technological, medical and cultural breakthroughs.

More effective knowledge sharing between universities and businesses will also demonstrate to the UK government that the sector is playing an active role in helping reach the target spend of 2.4% of GDP on research and development by 2027. This in turn will be vital in the recovery of the UK from the current crisis and ensure that the UK remains a global leader in addressing the challenges that lie ahead.

Professor McMillan said: "I am pleased to see the release of the Knowledge Exchange Concordat today. Effective knowledge exchange activities increase the impact of university research and education, and our responsibilities to social development and economic growth. The concordat provides a framework in which our universities can have the approaches in place to facilitate our staff and students to continue to have a major impact."

Amanda Solloway, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said: "I welcome the initiative taken by the higher education sector to set itself high standards in knowledge exchange and commit to a long-term programme of continuous improvement, engagement and capacity building in their Knowledge Exchange activities, through the Knowledge Exchange Concordat."

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "Effective knowledge exchange, driven by our world-leading universities, will ensure the development of key skills that will drive productivity and support new business.

"The concordat will support universities to promote the many different forms of knowledge exchange and business partnerships that make our diverse sector so impactful. The way UK institutions are working alongside UK government and industry to fight coronavirus is indicative of the excellent work already being done in this area."

David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: "I am pleased to see the publication of the KE concordat and very much welcome that its development has been sector-led. The concordat provides the means to continuously improve institutional KE performance and I see it as critical in assurance of our funding, especially driving efficiency and effectiveness."

Joe Marshall, CEO of the National Centre for Universities and Business, said: "Universities’ knowledge exchange activities play an incredibly important role in attracting, supporting and enhancing businesses and other organisations. The Concordat is an important vehicle for universities to proactively show their commitment to collaboration with others and demonstrate to external partners that through self-improvement they want to build better and deeper partnerships."

Gordon McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer of GuildHE, said: "We are pleased to be launching the Knowledge Exchange Concordat with Universities UK. Small and specialist institutions play vital roles in local, national and international knowledge exchange ecosystems by working with businesses and other organisations large and small to deliver social, cultural and economic benefits. We look forward to supporting our members and the wider sector in embedding the Concordat's principles."