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The Minister has asked Research England, the new council responsible for English university research and knowledge exchange within UK Research and Innovation, to consider the right increased level of investment for Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF). This should take account of the Witty Review’s recommendation that HEIF should rise to £250 million per year, and of the need to support critical underpinning quality research.
High levels of quality research are a vital driver of the disruptive technologies which underlie blockbuster drugs like Remicade, which is the basis of commercialisation success at New York University, and Abiraterone at the Institute of Cancer Research, both cited by the Minister.
The Minister has also asked Research England, working with the Office for Students, to accelerate the work led by Professor Trevor McMillan, the Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, on the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF).
Universities will be central to government efforts to increase UK levels of research and development spending to keep pace with leading-edge knowledge economies. The KEF will provide improved tools to help universities drive performance improvement, but also increase accountability to the public and to their communities.
The KEF will build on the successful data presented in annual Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) surveys, which is used to reward universities in HEIF performance-based funding.
HEFCE began funding for knowledge exchange in 1999 with support of the science budget, alongside its development of the HE-BCI survey. HE-BCI is one of the most comprehensive datasets for describing the third mission in the world, including international, national, regional and local perspectives.
UK performance in knowledge as measured in HE-BCI has grown by 66 per cent from £2.53 billion in 2003-04, when data was first published, to £4.21 billion in the latest figures for 2015-16. This year’s data shows strong growth in key areas identified by the Minister – income from large business has grown by 5.1 per cent from last year, income from small and medium-sized enterprises by 11 per cent, and intellectual property income by 13 per cent.
David Sweeney, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE and Executive Chair Designate of Research England, said:
‘Universities were founded to serve society. In partnership with the university sector, HEFCE developed some of the most ambitious policies in the world to support and reward the third mission of knowledge-based service. HEFCE initiated dedicated third stream funding in HEIF which has grown consistently over the years, with increasing return on the investment from public funding. And we were first in the world to embed the assessment of impact in our research funding. But there are new challenges, and much is expected of universities as a central component of the UK research and development enterprise.
‘Research England looks forward to taking on these challenges, working with universities and UK Research and Innovation.’
Sam Laidlaw, Chair, National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) said:
‘Research and development is an important driver of productivity, and the UK needs better productivity to drive businesses innovation and better wages. Raising the level of UK research and development is vitally important. This reflects past recommendations made by NCUB, as in our growing value task forces. We support the important measures set out in the Minister’s speech and look forward to working with our members to help Research England in their implementation.’
Read the Minister's speech to the HEFCE conference.