Cultural and organisational shifts are locating knowledge exchange ever more centrally in the national conversation – justifiably so, as KE will be vital to accomplishing the UK’s economic and policy goals. The Knowledge Exchange Concordat offers an opportunity to embed it yet more comprehensively in institutional approaches – and your feedback can help to shape it right now.

Friday saw the launch of the Knowledge Exchange Concordat consultation – a critical piece of the puzzle in promoting and capturing the value of university collaborations with non-academic partners. Slotting in alongside the metrics-based exercise that underpins the Knowledge Exchange Framework – which we’ve covered extensively on – the KEC posits a set of principles which universities can adopt and commit to as foundational guidelines for their KE activity.

Properly recognising, measuring and improving knowledge exchange requires an understanding of its heterogeneity. Much of the work invested in the metrics which shape the Knowledge Exchange Framework has sought to find ways to empirically account for the diversity of KE practice across the business, civic, social and cultural spectrum.

The Concordat affords an opportunity – beyond the more discursive nature of the narrative statements which form part of the KEF metrics – to speak more broadly to the philosophies that drive KE activity across the piece; and the opportunity for universities to visibly demonstrate and articulate their commitment to the knowledge exchange mission. This is in its own way as important as the measurements drawn out through the KEF. Beyond capturing the richness of KE activity and placing it squarely at the heart of university thinking, proper engagement with the Concordat may even have implications for funders as they evaluate proposals for Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) disbursements – so universities will want to take this seriously.

But that is a consideration for another day – in the short term, focus should be on informing the Concordat itself, and the consultation is open now. Eight underlying principles for KE activity are set out, each of which are intended to be woven in to institutional cultures and approaches: designing KE into the university mission; setting out clear policies in relation to KE; ensuring ease of engagement with and for partners; maximising effective working; building capacity; ensuring appropriate recognition and rewards; committing to continuous improvement; and properly evaluating success.

Each of these principles is a sound pillar upon which to base a programmatic institutional approach to KE. But the heterogeneity which we accept is a huge part of university activity in this space – in terms of partner selection, breadth and depth of activity, and of course capacity – means that so much will live in the detail. The consultation sets out a series of enablers which, if adopted, are intended to more easily groove the integration of KE policies and practices for all modes of interaction – and it is in this space that nuance, and the feedback of the community, will be so significant. Certainly, if the Concordat does not live up to diversity of KE activity to its fullest and adopts narrower tenets based around traditional tech transfer, an opportunity will be missed. So a full range of HE voices need to be heard.

And ensuring the Concordat is as fully-realised as possible is in the interests of both universities and their partners, of which business is hardly the least critical – for KE to work, real partnership must be a lived value in the truest sense. So NCUB is putting in place an approach to consult the full range of our membership on this topic ahead of the consultation’s closure on 1st July. We will update shortly – but in the interim, please do get in touch with any queries.