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Executive summary


1. The Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE‑BCI) Survey is in its 11th year and is an essential source of information on knowledge exchange (KE) in the UK. Annex A contains the full HE-BCI dataset.

2. The exchange of knowledge described here takes place between higher education institutions (HEIs) and the wider world of business and the community. Out of 163 publicly funded UK HEIs, 159 provided data for this report.

3. Data reported in this survey provide valuable intelligence for higher education (HE) senior managers, KE practitioners and policy makers. The report also provides an in-depth commentary on the extent of, and trends in, KE activity in the UK.

4. This report builds on previously published HE‑BCI surveys, the most recent of which analysed 2009-10 data and was published in September 2011 (‘Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction Survey: 2009-10’, HEFCE 2011/27)1.

5. In this latest survey, the third to be carried out by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), HEIs provided data for academic year 2010-11. Data regarding strategy and infrastructure (which are not numeric or financial) relate to the end of the academic year (July 2011).

6. HE‑BCI covers a range of activities, from the commercialisation of new knowledge, through the delivery of professional training, consultancy and services, to activities intended to have direct social benefits. ‘Business’ in this context refers to private, public and third-sector2 partners of all sizes, with which HEIs interact in a broad range of ways. ‘Community’ in this context means society as a whole outside the HEI, including all social, community and cultural organisations, individuals and the wider public.

Key points

7. Data collected for academic year 2010-11 show a continuing increase in the overall exchange of knowledge between UK HEIs and the public, private and third sectors. The growth rate – in cash terms – for the UK is around 7 per cent, from £3,086 million in 2009-10 to £3,302 million3. Over the longer term income has risen in real terms by 41 per cent since 2003-04.

8. This is particularly impressive because (as we have highlighted in previous HE-BCI reports) the results need to be seen in the context of wider economic turbulence and other factors that impact on HEIs’ interactions with their partners4.

9. International comparisons of KE activities are still very difficult to draw with any degree of certainty, due to differences in data available and definitional differences between sources. HE‑BCI includes comparisons with US universities based on data collected by the Association of University Technology Managers ( on commercialisation of intellectual property (IP). Overall, US universities are more effective at producing licences than UK HEIs, but the UK creates more spin-off companies per pound of public money spent on research. Further detail is at Annex B.

Income by partner

10. Spending by large business increased overall by 7 per cent from £587 million to £629 million, while small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) maintained their total spending on engagement with UK HEIs in cash terms; non-commercial partners in the public and third sectors, charities and social enterprises increased their spending by 5 per cent from £1,166 million to £1,221 million (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Total income by partner 2003-04 to 2010-11 (real terms)

Text description for Figure 1

Source: HE‑BCI Part B Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4c

Research-based interactions

11. Collaborative research income rose by 16 per cent from around £749 million in 2009-10 to £872 million (see Figure 2). The data reported show an increase (around 10 per cent from £602 million to £663 million) in the public contribution to collaborative research as defined in HE‑BCI. There was a significant increase in private contributions of 42 per cent to £208 million, although it is likely this partly reflects improvements in data capture.

12. Contract research income (Figure 3) has risen by 7 per cent from £983 million to just over £1 billion. The main increase in income was from non-commercial partners (8 per cent) although income from SMEs also rose by 3 per cent. There was a 5 per cent increase in income from large business. This is very encouraging given the economic context, and because the 2009-10 survey found that contract research income from large business had decreased by 5 per cent.

Figure 2 Selected HE‑BCI income streams 2003-04 to 2010-11 (real terms)

Text description for Figure 2

Fig 2 Selected HE-BCI income streams real-terms Area graph

Source: HE‑BCI Part B Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4c

Figure 3 Income by activity and partner 2010-11

Text description for Figure 3

Fig 3 Activity and Partner income Large business

Source: HE‑BCI Part B Tables 1, 2 and 4c


13. Consultancy income increased by 2 per cent to £370 million from £363 million in 2009-10. Most of this increase was from the large business sector with an increase of over £5 million to £90 million.

Equipment and facilities

14. Income from use of facilities and equipment (for example, wind tunnels or digital media suites) rose by around 12 per cent overall to £129 million; the majority of this increase was from large business, which invested around £40 million in 2010-11, 22 per cent more than in 2009-10. SMEs also increased their investment by 10 per cent to £40 million.

Education and continuing professional development

15. Income from continuing professional development (CPD) and continuing education activity rose by around 5 per cent from £579 million in 2009-10 to £606 million. Income from individuals increased by 13 per cent. CPD income has grown by 72 per cent, in real terms, since 2003-04.

16. Large businesses also increased spending on CPD by 10 per cent. While CPD spending by SMEs reduced by 3 per cent, this nevertheless represents a significant investment (£28 million).


17. Income from regeneration programmes fell, from £214 million in 2009-10 to £203 million, a decrease of 5 per cent. This is not surprising given the wind-down of the Regional Development Agencies (RDA) in England: RDA investment in regeneration programmes decreased by 18 percent to £76 million.

Intellectual property and enterprise

18. Income from intellectual property (including sales of shares) grew by 52 per cent in real terms over the period from 2003-04 to 2010-11. In 2009-10, share sales generated £26 million of income compared to £8 million in 2010-11. We also believe that institutions are waiting for investment conditions to improve before focusing on later investment and sale of technologies.

19. Disclosures5 and new patent applications have increased by 8 per cent and 12 per cent respectively. Although there was a drop in the number of new patents granted (down by 8 per cent from 2009-10), patent data should be viewed over a longer time series because of the time lag between applications and grants. The cumulative patent portfolio of the UK HE sector increased by 10 per cent from 14,800 in 2009-10 to 16,345.

20. New enterprises (start-ups) that are not based on IP have increased since 2009-10, with 87 new companies started by HEI staff and 2,848 by new or recent graduates, up by a third and a fifth respectively. Start-ups active for three or more years also increased in 2010-11, by 27 per cent for staff and 33 per cent for recent graduates respectively.

Social, community and cultural activities

21. HE‑BCI also collects data on public events run by HEIs. These illustrate the wide-ranging civic, community and cultural contributions that HEIs make, though they describe only a small part of that range.

22. For example, over 1.3 million people attended free public lectures organised by HEIs, representing a 38 per cent increase from 2009-10. Over 1.7 million people paid to attend performance events – such as music, film, dance and drama – and 645,000 attended free performances. Exhibitions attracted nearly eight million visitors.

Strategy and infrastructure

23. There was a slight dip last year in some infrastructure indicators, such as the percentage of HEIs offering an enquiry point for SMEs. However, all of these indicators are still at a high level.

Action required

24. This report is for information. No action is required.


1 All HEFCE publications may be read at

2 The ‘third sector’ refers to voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, charities, co-operatives and mutuals.

3 Unless stated otherwise, data refer to changes over the period 2009-10 to 2010-11.

Date: July 2012

Ref: 2012/18

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Knowledge exchange; Innovation; Enterprise and entrepreneurship; Interactions between higher education and business, public and third sectors; Contract and collaborative research; Continuing professional development; Public engagement; Strategic planning; Economic development

Enquiries should be directed to:

Paul Hazell, tel 0117 931 7452, e-mail