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Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)

The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) is a new assessment of how English universities carry out knowledge exchange. At UCL we often refer to knowledge exchange as innovation and enterprise.

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

KEF 2021 results

The first KEF results were published on 31 March 2021. They cover knowledge exchange activity recorded between August 2016 and July 2019.

UCL is in the top 10% of English universities for:

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

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

You can view detailed results for all institutions on the Knowledge Exchange Framework website.

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
  • Skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship
  • Local growth and regeneration
  • Intellectual property and commercialisation
  • Public and community engagement

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. For example, one 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.

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.

KEF results are based on data from a 3-year period. As data is collected annually, it’s likely the KEF results will also be updated annually, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Metrics used

Below are the metrics used to measure each perspective.

Research partnerships

  • Partners’ contributions to collaborative research
  • Number of publications with co-authors from non-academic partners

Working with business

  • Income from Innovate UK (for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and as grants)
  • Income for contracted research from non-SME businesses
  • Income for contracted research from SMEs
  • Income for consultancy and use of facilities from non-SME businesses
  • Income for consultancy and use of facilities from SMEs

Working with the public and third sector

  • Income for contracted research from the public and third sector
  • Income for consultancy and use of facilities from the public and third sector

Skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship

  • Income from continuing professional development (CPD) and continuing education (CE)
  • Number of CPD/CE learner days delivered
  • Number of graduate startups created

Local growth and regeneration

  • Regeneration and development income
  • Additional narrative/contextual information supplied by the university

Intellectual property and commercialisation

  • Estimated turnover of active spinouts
  • Average external investment per spinout
  • Licensing and other IP income

Public and community engagement

  • Self-assessment by university
  • Additional narrative/contextual information supplied by the university

UCL’s KEF results

UCL is in cluster V. This group includes 17 very large, very research-intensive universities which:

  • undertake a significant amount of world-leading research
  • receive research funding from a range of sources (for example, research councils, government bodies, charities and industry)
  • have significant activity in clinical medicine and STEM

UCL is in the top 10% of all universities (and above average for our cluster) for:

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

We’re in the top 20% of all universities for ‘Working with the public and third sector’ (average for our cluster).

We’re in the top 30% of all universities for ‘Working with business’.

We scored below our cluster average for:

  • Skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship
  • Local growth and regeneration

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

You can view detailed results for all institutions on the Knowledge Exchange Framework website.

Knowledge exchange at UCL

UCL has a rich history of knowledge exchange. Since the university was founded in 1826, our research and ideas have changed the way people live and provided ground-breaking solutions to real world problems. Our researchers have been involved in inventions such as the thermionic valve that ushered in the electronics age in the late 19th century, the development of the internet in Europe, and pioneering cancer immunotherapy.

Our interdisciplinary approach, combined with the breadth and depth of expertise across UCL, gives us a unique perspective on knowledge exchange.

We work closely with both government and industry, as well as leading academic, cultural, scientific research and media organisations. These include The Alan Turing Institute, The British Library, British Museum, Francis Crick Institute, Google and GSK.

We're an integral partner to healthcare organisations such as University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. We also work alongside multiple other NHS trusts, learned societies and research institutes.

Our new UCL East campus sits within East Bank, a growing cultural and education district on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It focuses on local engagement and partnerships, making the institution accessible and enabling grassroots knowledge exchange within the community, alongside world-class research and teaching.

To read more about some of our recent activity, browse our case studies and news stories or visit the Made at UCL website.

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