Innovation & Enterprise


UCL Innovation and Enterprise Interim Strategy 2021 to 2023

Our interim strategy 'Transforming Knowledge and Ideas into Action (COVID-19 and beyond)' is a two-year extension of our strategy 'Transforming Knowledge and Ideas into Action', which covered 2016 to 2021.


This extension strategy refreshes the strategic direction and goals in the realm of innovation and enterprise, whilst enabling the institution to assess the impact of various challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU, to pivot and respond in agile ways throughout. It further ensures that UCL is well-prepared to respond to the immediate and anticipated challenges in knowledge exchange (KE) signalled by government, and any changes in university strategy implemented by our new Provost.

The university has a unique set of contributions to make to the economic, social and cultural recovery of London, the UK and the world. The role of UCL’s innovation and enterprise outputs in transforming knowledge and ideas into action is more vital than ever as the pandemic brings into sharp focus the importance of universities working with business and government to address the very immediate challenges that society now faces. UCL cannot do this in isolation, but increasingly requires the ability to work in agile and purposeful partnerships with other organisations to succeed.

We will focus, in particular, on:

  • Partnerships
    Over the next two years, we seek to continue to broaden the variety of organisations we work with to amplify and extend our reach. As well as seeking partners from across the public and private sectors, particularly those less accustomed to working with Higher Education institutions, we will continue to grow our support for SMEs and our spin-outs and start-ups, promoting entrepreneurial mind-sets across the university and beyond.

  • Supporting students
    There is an ever-increasing overlap between student experience and innovation, which UCL has been strengthening over recent years and commits to do so further. With employment prospects in a state of flux, there is a need for independently-minded, entrepreneurial individuals to contribute to rebuilding the economy, and we commit to providing training and support for those students looking beyond traditional career routes, to explore and engage in innovation and enterprise activities in a wide range of ways.

  • Knowledge exchange
    UCL has made significant progress since 2016 in embedding knowledge exchange into its processes and decision-making, with formalisation of the Innovation and Enterprise Committee, Vice Deans (Enterprise) and refreshed policies on Intellectual Property and Conflicts of Interest being some of the significant institution-wide commitments to knowledge exchange. We will maintain our focus on developing a positive internal innovation environment, whilst seeking to further progress the national KE environment through engagement with initiatives including the KE Concordat. 

Woven throughout the strategy are three cross-cutting themes – sustainability, equality and diversity and place – as essential as the individual priorities, but crossing boundaries with relevance across the priorities. We recognise that we can always do more to bring these themes into our work and our planning, to ensure they are continually advanced.

There is a desire to build on the momentum achieved in 2020 around successful outcomes arising from COVID-19 driven research and innovation at UCL. We seek to learn from the environments, mechanisms and systems that supported much of our rapid innovation, to continue delivering innovative solutions to problems in responsive and coherent ways sustainably.


As a university, we will:

Use our knowledge and intellectual assets to address major societal and economic challenges

We aim to:

1. Address economic and social needs arising from COVID-19

To achieve this we will:

  • Promote and support user-driven innovation, to meet societal needs as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Build and grow internal and external networks to support and enable KE

To achieve this we will:

  • Increase networks with partners and other relevant HEIs, to improve engagement in policy and economic environments.
  • Identify and enable supporters to advocate for KE across faculties and professional services.
  • Utilise existing internal networks, to communicate KE opportunities and upskill those across the institution.

3. Identify areas for focus where the greatest impact and benefit can be achieved

To achieve this we will:   

  • Direct funding to projects and activities anticipated to achieve significant impact, to increase effectiveness.
  • Develop a coherent framework for managing UCL’s intellectual assets, working across I&E, Office of the Vice-Provost (Research) and research and innovation support services to ensure a cohesive approach across the institution.
Work with innovative partners across the public and private sectors to address collaborative opportunities that amplify our innovation activity

We aim to:

1. Support development of increasingly diverse and broad partnerships across all aspects of innovation and enterprise

To achieve this we will:

  • Review systems, processes and policies to promote partnership development across a variety of sectors.
  • Pursue a sectoral level approach to identify partners across the public and private sectors.
  • Grow the impact of partnerships through increasing the variety of organisations and partners that work with UCL and seeking out unique opportunities to collaborate beyond the usual boundaries of higher education.
Embed a variety of approaches through which students can participate in innovation and enterprise

We aim to:

1. Expand the opportunities for UCL PhD students

To achieve this we will:

  • Utilise and contribute to a suite of tools and approaches to engage with doctoral students throughout their training, to support and encourage the application of their research through entrepreneurship and other routes.

2. Identify opportunities for all students to engage in innovation 

To achieve this we will:

  • Increase UCL engagement with placements and internships in start-ups and innovative companies, facilitating colleagues and students to develop external relationships. 
  • Increase innovative, accessible programmes for the development of entrepreneurial mind-sets for all students.
  • Identify and engage supporters, alumni and donors to feed into a programme of innovation-specific mentoring.

As Innovation & Enterprise, we will:

Support a wide range of routes to create societal and economic benefit from UCL’s research and education across all academic disciplines

We aim to:

1. Develop, grow and support partnerships with external organisations

To achieve this we will:

  • Increase partnerships with non-R&D intensive organisations who can assist in leveraging other funding, audiences, access, data and influence.
  • Identify opportunities to develop global innovation partnerships, to increase the impact of our activities and outputs.
  • Leverage our strong relationship with Innovate UK through delivery of the Innovate UK EDGE programme, to access new international partners and markets.

2. Grow recognised sector expertise

To achieve this we will:

  • Develop relationships with organisations that align with institutional objectives and support pivotal institutional relationships.
  • Continue to use road-mapping and new techniques, to develop and encourage dialogues with external partners.

3. Invest in the development of new collaboration models

To achieve this we will:

  • Develop new rapid format collaboration mechanisms, including COIN, that accelerate take-up of UCL research.

4. Stakeholder development

  • Accelerate impact routes by improving our understanding of the stakeholder landscape, through analysis and review.

We will continue to:

5. Develop high performing UCLB and UCLC as delivery vehicles for UCL strategy 

To achieve this we will:

  • Invest in growing social enterprise functions and support, to improve the breadth of services available.
  • Increase alignment of UCLB and UCLC with broader UCL activities, improving links to research and innovation support services and ensuring clear communication and interfaces between these.
  • Develop and support international capacity building through UCLC.

6. Increase support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a key element of economic and social regeneration 

To achieve this we will:

  • Collate support for small businesses, drawing activities from across I&E to support the varying needs of SMEs.
  • Increase engagement in and use of international Innovation networks, promoting international reach for relevant SMEs.

7. Entrepreneurship programme expansion

To achieve this we will:

  • Deliver a high-quality extra-curricular entrepreneurship programme to enhance the student experience, develop entrepreneurial mind sets and create high quality graduate start-ups supported by ongoing provision of space and support.
Promote and embed an effective culture of innovation and knowledge exchange across UCL

We aim to:

1. Build capacity for innovation across UCL

To achieve this we will:

  • Continue to develop training and capacity building, to support innovation activities and improve understanding across the institution.
  • Continuous improvement on our innovation environment, including frameworks and policies, to meet the expectations set out through the Knowledge Exchange Concordat, including conducting self-evaluations and action plans.

2. Further develop specific support for students and early career researchers

To achieve this we will:

  • Identify and implement opportunities to offer tailored innovation support for doctoral students and early career researchers.
  • Embed and further grow programmes supporting innovation for doctoral students.
  • Develop support mechanisms and tools to enable further student innovation engagement.

We will continue to:

3. Improve systems and data to better understand and report on the innovation landscape at UCL

To achieve this we will:

  • Champion systems to support innovation and enterprise activities, including research and innovation support systems.
  • Embed the training, processes and systems related to conflicts of interest, intellectual property, revenue sharing and other relevant policies.

4. Review, maintain, refresh and develop new policies to support innovation activity across UCL

To achieve this we will:

  • Ensure all policies are up-to-date, reflect good practice and are designed to facilitate innovation activity across UCL.
  • Support the dissemination and adoption of innovation policies, including training and guidance.
Contribute to improving the profile of UCL, highlighting the impact innovation and enterprise makes to society, in the UK and globally

We aim to:

1. Demonstrate the breadth and depth of innovation activity across UCL

To achieve this we will:

  • Deliver compelling communications on UCL’s innovation activity externally, with alignment to UCL’s Communications and Marketing team (CAM).

2. Engage in the UK policy landscape around knowledge exchange and innovation

To achieve this we will:

  • Participate in the KEF and KEC and support UKRI activities around knowledge exchange improvements.
  • Identify opportunities to contribute to KE policy conversations nationally, to increase awareness of KE impact and increase UCL’s visibility in the field.

We will continue to:

3. Improve stakeholder relationships

To achieve this we will:

  • Develop and build a bank of ‘best examples’ from across UCL to communicate our impact both internally and externally.
  • Develop the processes and structures for improved engagement with our broad range of external stakeholders and partners, including innovation partners, funding bodies and government.
  • Improve communication and engagement with our internal and external stakeholders and promote deepening relationships.

Cross-cutting themes

As we implement this strategy, three cross-cutting themes will inform our work:

Enhancing UCL’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

To build sustainability into our activities over the next two years, we will be exploring how to promote and encourage sustainability throughout innovation activity, particularly how to bring it into funding processes in order to amplify sustainability outcomes.

We will consider how to ensure our impact feeds through to the institutional frameworks and commitments to the SDGs, including coordinating with the university’s overall efforts to progress these areas and taking cues from the UCL Sustainability strategy. In order to encourage good practice and increase take-up across UCL innovation activities, we will continually review how we can share progress and outputs, utilising our communications resources and case studies to this end.

Equality, diversity and inclusion for those who participate in, or benefit from, our work

To address inequalities and challenges around diversity and inclusion across innovation and enterprise activities we will be considering how to best work with colleagues across the institution to better understand the complexities of EDI actions and make changes where we identify challenges.

We will look at structural and process-driven areas where we may be inadvertently creating or allowing barriers to engagement to exist, and seek to transform these areas to open up knowledge exchange activities for all across UCL. We then intend to take this a step further, reviewing how we can support those who go through our activities and support networks, to place equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of their business models, including within UCL’s startups and spinouts.

The role of place in anchoring and distributing the benefits of innovation to economy and society

There is a particular concern for the unbalanced and diverse effects of COVID-19, as well as acknowledgement of the need to support and enhance the levelling up of communities across the UK and internationally. Consequently, we will be reviewing how best to engage with organisations that are pivotal to anchoring the benefits of innovation beyond UCL’s usual spectrum of partnerships, to broaden the reach of our innovation activities. 

Our work in Camden and East London has tangible impacts on the local communities and we seek to deepen these whilst exploring how to learn from and apply this activity in other places and contexts. We will continue building on the work already underway at UCL East, using local action and knowledge-based collaboration to support ongoing development of the area. We will focus, in particular, on supporting the emerging Innovation District, seeking to contribute to the generation of new jobs, increasing educational and cultural opportunities, policy insights and civic and health services for local people.

Key dependencies

In setting out this strategy, we acknowledge that we have some key dependencies for ensuring our achievements are wide-reaching and meet their potential. We are aware of the challenges and pressures that have been placed on academics and early career researchers throughout the pandemic, with an increased focus on providing online teaching and delivering research outputs in an ever-changing research environment. We acknowledge the capacity of these colleagues may be depleted, particularly as we launch this strategy, and will continue to review and monitor this, as well as considering ways to reduce administrative burdens that may arise through innovation and enterprise engagement.