As the Knowledge Exchange Concordat consultation closes, we unpack some potential areas for reflection.

We’ve written on the Concordat before. But for ease of reference, it’s a document which proposes eight high-level principles which should underlie KE activities. And it sets out the aims and enablers which should:

  • Help universities and their staff and students ensure clarity of mission
  • Support their development
  • Give partners an accurate representation of the approaches and strengths of individual universities
  • Provide clear indicators of their approaches in developing and improving performance
  • Give governing bodies and funders broad confidence in the activity that is taking place in universities

We invited members to offer up any views they might have on the Concordat, as presently constituted; and while it is currently England-only, we were happy to entertain perspectives from institutions from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

But beyond that – we also explicitly invited business members to offer their perspectives, if desired. While the Concordat is led from an HE perspective – and represents a real commitment by the sector to embed absolute best practice, increase the effectiveness and impact of their KE and be great partners themselves – universities cannot build a perfect environment for KE by talking to each other. Corporate, civic and public partners have to be in the conversation from its most formative stages.

This reflection – and others emerging from this exercise – are set out below, and developed more fully in the written response which you can access at the foot of the page:

  • Self-confidence should underpin university knowledge exchange philosophies and policies. The Concordat should reflect this and encourage universities to be clear in this confidence – and be equally clear to current and potential partners that self-interest is not a driver.
  • The importance of value to partners is articulated throughout the draft. But these partners should be played in at this formative stage. And co-development of strategies with engaged partners – and learning from those less engaged – is one way forward.
  • The Concordat seeks to embed positive behaviours, formalise incentives and spread responsibility for KE activity. Capacity-building is critical – but so is acknowledgment of the human and practical challenges of embedding knowledge exchange philosophies in already-loaded staff. Workloading and time allocations are only part of the story; and even here there is asymmetric capacity between institutions to properly calibrate cultures and offer rewards.
  • Modern knowledge exchange is characterised by diversity of activity, and it can only benefit from diversity of voice. Tech transfer principles and approaches do not apply everywhere and in its application the Concordat must support the diversity of modern KE – and empower those less traditional voices.
  • This diversity of activity extends to place-based activity. In a period of accelerated engagement with the place agenda – and as metrics through KEF and HE-BCI try to get to grips with really capturing it – the Concordat must make clear that universities are thinking creatively about how they impact and interact with their localities.

The Concordat will be moving into its implementation phase in the autumn – and fully rolled out next year, as the tricky work of considering how and where it should link more explicitly to the Knowledge Exchange Framework, and perhaps HEIF allocations, continues. We will be working with Research England and partners through this period – and will share more on our role, views and activities as we go forward.