Innovation & Enterprise


Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)

The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) is an annual assessment of how English universities carry out knowledge exchange.

KEF is a key element of Research England’s benchmarking of universities, alongside the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Its aim is to allow institutions to understand and improve their performance in knowledge exchange.

About KEF

KEF seeks to quantify and celebrate the many different ways universities in England interact with the wider world. 

It’s measured by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), who provide funding and support to English higher education providers to help them play a central role in society and the economy.

Seven perspectives, or areas of activity, are measured:

  • Research partnerships
  • Working with business
  • Working with the public and third sector
  • Continuing professional development (CPD) and graduate startups
  • Local growth and regeneration
  • Intellectual property (IP) and commercialisation
  • Public and community engagement

KEF was first introduced in 2021.

KEF 2022 results

For the second year running UCL has performed strongly in KEF, retaining its position as a leading university for knowledge exchange.

KEF has placed UCL in the highest possible band for:

  • Research partnerships
  • Public and community engagement
  • Intellectual property and commercialisation

The 2022 KEF covers knowledge exchange activity recorded between August 2018 and July 2021.

    More detail about UCL's KEF results can be found in our KEF news story.

    More about KEF and results for all institutions can be found on the Knowledge Exchange Framework website.

    How knowledge exchange activity is measured

    Unlike REF, there is no KEF submission. KEF is mostly based on data which is already collected by universities for other purposes. The primary data source used is the annual Higher Education Business & Community Interaction survey (HE-BCI).

    In addition, universities supply a short narrative to cover areas where there are no suitable metrics, such as for public and community engagement, and local growth and regeneration.

    Activity is measured for the university as a whole. There are no faculty-level or subject-specific results.

    Most of the metrics used are adjusted for the size of the institution, for example by dividing by income, number of students or other relevant measure.

    Universities are also grouped into ‘clusters’ of similar institutions, to make comparisons with peers easier. UCL is in cluster V. This group includes 18 very large, very research-intensive universities.

    KEF results are based on data from a 3-year period. As data is collected annually, the KEF results will also be updated annually.

    How UCL contributes to society through knowledge exchange

    These videos show three examples knowledge exchange at UCL.


    Social enterprise startup ZNotes, founded by alumnus Zubair Junjunia (UCL Mathematics), has helped nearly 4 million students with free revision notes and other online content.

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    Freeline Therapeutics

    UCL spinout Freeline Therapeutics specialises in pioneering gene therapy, building on the work of its founder Professor Amit Nathwani (UCL Cancer Institute).

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    UCL MotionInput v3 could transform the way millions of people use their computers, thanks to an innovative project involving UCL, Intel, Microsoft, IBM and the NHS.

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    Find out more about how UCL contributes to society through knowledge exchange by reading our: