University of Hertfordshire achieves strong results in Research England’s latest Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)
For the third year running, the University of Hertfordshire has performed strongly in Research England’s Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), a national-level assessment of how effectively universities work with partners for the benefit of the economy and society, published today (Wednesday, 27 September).
The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) has placed Herts in the top two quintiles – awarding either ‘very high engagement’ or ‘high engagement’ - across six of its seven categories, reflecting the consistent quality and impact of Herts knowledge exchange work. The results particularly highlight the University’s strengths in research partnerships, working with the public and third sector and its work driving local growth and regeneration, awarding the university the highest ranking of ‘very high engagement’ in all three categories.
KEF assesses universities against a range of metrics including how effectively they work with businesses, engagement with the public and community, their contribution to skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship and income achieved through different types of collaborative work including research partnerships, contract research, consultancy and facilities hire. Universities are grouped into clusters with institutions of similar characteristics in terms of size, research activity, portfolio, student population and relationships with the public sector and industry.
Herts is one of 29 institutions grouped into Cluster E, alongside the likes of Anglia Ruskin, Nottingham Trent, Oxford Brookes, Kingston and Portsmouth. Within Cluster E, Herts ranks above the group average in four of the seven categories, including ‘research partnerships’, ‘local growth and regeneration’, ‘working with the public and third sector’ and ‘IP and Commercialisation’ - which takes into account IP income and spinout investment and turnover. Herts also performs strongly in the ‘Working with Business’ category – which looks at income through contract research, consultancy and facilities hire-, and the ‘Skills, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship’ category, reflective of the university’s strong portfolio of startup and entrepreneurship support.
Professor John Senior, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, said: “As a modern, entrepreneurial University that evolved from engineering and computer science roots, our whole ethos is based on working effectively with industry, and Knowledge Exchange is fundamental to our operation.
“These latest KEF results demonstrate our extensive record of putting our expertise, resources and facilities to work for the benefit of the local and national economy, delivering on the UK government’s industrial strategy and building on our strategic goal of ‘transforming lives’.
“As the major anchor institution in Hertfordshire, we proactively engage with our Local Enterprise Partnership and other key local stakeholders. Through collaborative research initiatives, such as Herts Science Partnership, University Enterprise Zone activities, opening our campus facilities as a business incubator, providing R&D acceleration support and leveraging specialist funds through our subsidiary Exemplas, we annually engage with over 5,000 businesses to power their potential and drive local, national and international growth. These strong results reflect this hard work and our ongoing commitment to develop and implement impactful, real-world research and development, knowledge exchange activity and targeted consultancy that is socially and economically beneficial.”
Examples of some of our exemplary work recognised by Research England include:
A proud ‘University Enterprise Zone’
The vital and unique role we play in the Hertfordshire economy was recognised in our 2019 award from Research England as one of 20 University Enterprise Zones. Central to this is our embedded focus on cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurial talent and strategic approach to knowledge exchange centred around four collaborative centres of excellence in the region that collaborative address regional priorities:
- Health and Care Cluster
- Science, Medicines, and Technology Cluster
- Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Cluster
- Screen Arts Cluster
Herts Enterprise Hub: A holistic approach to business support
Developed through a £12m investment initiative, including £2.5m of Local Growth Fund from the Hertfordshire LEP, the opening of the Enterprise Hub in 2020 has significantly improved and expanded the support the University is able to offer businesses in the region and beyond. Today, the contemporary, fully equipped Hub acts as an anchor for a full range of business services including flexible business incubation, office space, as well as teaching and social areas to strengthen collaboration between students, academics and the business community.
Additions to our core provision in 2022 included the launch of Acceleration support programmes, including the Herts Sustainability Accelerator, which was designed in response to a growing local need for R&D support around green tech and know-how. The scheme supported Hertfordshire-based SMEs with scale-up potential to launch an innovative and sustainable product, service and/or technology. Businesses received a package of wrap-around support including 1-2-1 mentoring, training, and specialist technical, commercial, and creative marketing support from a multidisciplinary team of over 40 academic, technical and business experts from across our different Schools and research centres, including the Climate Change Research Centre and the Centre for Future Societies Research.
The pandemic and the EU exit transition posed a unique set of dual challenges for UK businesses. In response, we partnered with the Hertfordshire Growth Hub and swiftly deployed our joint resources to launch the Volunteer Business Support Scheme in June 2020, a free and confidential 1-2-1 business mentoring programme. During an 18-month period, the scheme enlisted and trained 78 local business leaders as volunteer mentors, providing a total of 1,516 hours of critical one-to-one business mentoring support to 328 local businesses throughout both lockdowns. Since then, the University has set up an ongoing business mentoring service and during the last year alone provided over 740 hours of business mentoring support to local SMEs.
Impactful Research Partnerships to Enable Sustainable Innovation
The University draws on its academic expertise in sustainable development, health, social care and technology, to help inform the decision-making process of planning authorities. Our deep know-how in areas such as life sciences, sustainable agriculture and technology, supports the ongoing relationship with Hertfordshire LEP. The University actively supported Hertfordshire LEP to develop its Life Sciences sector strategy, with academic experts at the University helping draw up the Life Sciences wing of Hertfordshire’s LEP Strategic Economic Plan in 2014, which culminated in the publication of ‘Hertfordshire’s Cell and Gene Therapy Cluster 2021’ and the launch of a new life sciences industry panel in 2022, of which the University is a part.
A good example of this collaborative approach is the Hertfordshire Science Partnership, an innovative collaboration between the University and the Hertfordshire LEP, which leveraged £6m of funding to provide 40 companies with various types of support, including research collaborations that often included the placement of a graduate researcher.
Public and Community Engagement
We have made significant progress in this area, taking an institution-wide strategic approach to public and community engagement, that included publishing a Public Engagement Strategy setting our engagement goals. Between 2019-2021, Herts’ engaged 44,279 people across a broad range of PE activities (HEBCI). Other exemplar programmes include UH Arts & Culture that delivers a relevant, ambitious and innovative cross-arts programme; Bayfordbury Observatory’s programme designed to inspire the next generation of astrophysicists and astronomers; involving open evenings, school visits, inflatable planetarium for roadshow events and stargazing projects in local primary schools; our Heritage Hub that brings together community interests in history and heritage across the region, the Hub provides a unified, outward-facing identity for our heritage engagement activities, pooling our academic expertise to run collaborative initiatives with the public, social enterprises, housing associations, libraries, local authorities and museums; our Law Clinic that Provides free legal advice in areas of unmet need including family and housing law, improving access to justice in our community.
While we have improved our performance in this area and are now on par with the cluster’s average of “medium engagement”, we are working hard to improve our performance and effectiveness in this area further.
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