UCL News


UCL retains leading position in third Knowledge Exchange Framework

27 September 2023

UCL has performed strongly in Research England’s Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) 3 results, retaining its position as one of the country’s top universities for knowledge exchange.


KEF looks at the wide range of activities that higher education institutions undertake with external partners for the benefit of society and the economy. These activities encompass engaging with businesses, the public and the third sector as well as commercialising research, licensing intellectual property and nurturing graduate startups.

At UCL this ranges from partnerships with the National Trust and Camden Council, to support for hundreds of small-and medium-sized businesses as well as spinouts raising millions for next-generation cancer therapies.

In KEF3, UCL scored top marks in the areas of intellectual property and commercialisation, research partnerships, working with business and working with the public and third sector.

Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said: “I'm delighted UCL has performed well in KEF3. It's a great reflection of the broad and varied ways in which we collaborate with external partners to deliver significant change and impact for society and the economy. Congratulations to our students, academics and professional services colleagues, as well as their partners in business, government, local communities and the NHS.

“UCL will continue to put knowledge exchange at the heart of what we do, and I'd like to take this opportunity to invite existing and new partners to work with us to make a difference.”

KEF groups universities in like-for-like clusters based on factors such as their size, specialisation and level of research. UCL had sector-leading performances in its cluster of 18 large research-intensive institutions including the Universities of Oxford and Manchester. The KEF3 results were based on data from three years (August 2019-July 2022).

One area where UCL was recognised as a sector leader was intellectual property and commercialisation. Between 2014 and 2022 over 60 spinouts were started at UCL. Collectively they have raised over £2.9 billion in investment (*HEBCI 2014-2022)

One spinout, Autolus, aims to advance a cancer therapy, CAR-T therapy, in which a patient’s own T-cells are reprogrammed so they can recognise and fight cancer cells in the body.

The therapy, developed by UCL researchers, offers hope for people with difficult-to-treat cancers, having been shown to be highly effective in treating patients with leukaemias and lymphomas. It also shows promise in the treatment of solid tumours.

The research was commercialised into a spinout company in 2014, supported by UCL Business Ltd (UCLB), UCL's commercialisation company. 

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Partnership with the National Trust
UCL’s collaboration with Europe’s biggest conservation charity, formalised in 2021, is helping the heritage sector adapt to change, connect with more people, and embrace new practices.

Since the partnership was announced a number of secondments, policy placements and research projects have taken place. They include projects to:

  • Explore the link between the built environment and people’s wellbeing, with the aim of developing new ways to use the Trust’s sites to support vulnerable people.
  • Assess the energy performance of the 3,000 buildings the Trust rents to tenants, to help the Trust meet its net zero targets.
  • Evaluate how archaeology affects the wellbeing of volunteers, to help the Trust and others understand and improve the social impact of their work.

The Trust has also played a key role in the development of a new Heritage, Sustainability and Society BA degree programme at UCL, which is launching at UCL East from September 2024. Providing unique insight into the sector’s evolving needs is helping to ensure UCL’s heritage teaching continues to lead the way globally.

Entrepreneurial community
UCL is a thriving place for entrepreneurs. In total, over 400 new graduate businesses were started at UCL between 2014 and 2022. Collectively they have raised over £300 million in investment and currently employ over 1,700 people. (*HEBCI 2014-2022)  

The financial education app Your Juno, set up by UCL alumna Margot de Broglie (UCL Economics, 2019) and her sister, was supported in its early days through the Hatchery incubator programme at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub in King’s Cross. 

The app, which aims to help educate women and non-binary people on the topic of finances, now has over 70,000 users and has been described by the Financial Times as having “revolutionised access to financial knowledge”. The team has raised £2.5 million to help grow the business further.

Supporting businesses
Between January 2020 and May 2023, UCL supported more than 450 small- and medium-sized businesses to innovate and grow, as part of UKRI’s Innovate UK service, helping secure over £60 million in investment and over £183 million in funding for these businesses.

One such business was Enhanced Fertility, which provides home testing for infertility issues, aiming to speed up diagnosis so people can start treatment sooner, as on average it can take three years for someone’s fertility issues to be diagnosed.

Andreia Trigo, the business’s founder, said: “The Innovate UK EDGE team at UCL have been incredibly helpful. They’ve worked with us to clarify our mission, to prepare pitch decks, to work out our go-to market strategy, everything.

“With their input, we’ve also been able to access a grant to develop a platform for clinics, which we launched in January this year. We’ve received the Conformité Européenne (CE) mark and are two months away from starting to sell our tests across all European countries to help even more families.”

UCL East
A key area of knowledge exchange for UCL has been the opening of our new campus UCL East. This investment in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and its local community is the biggest development in our nearly 200-year history.

UCL East is a founding partner of East Bank, a new powerhouse for innovation, creativity and learning on the park. East Bank aims to complement London’s major cultural and education centres such as the Knowledge Quarter, which includes the main UCL campus, and the cluster of museums and academic institutions in South Kensington.

Working in partnership with organisations including the V&A, BBC, UAL London College of Fashion and Sadler’s Wells, East Bank will bring 1.5 million additional visitors to the park and surrounding area each year. It will create 2,500 jobs in Stratford and deliver a £1.5 billion boost to the local economy, with around 4,000 students and 700 staff working together to collaborate with local communities and businesses.

UCL President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence, said: “Partnership is intrinsic to UCL and something that we constantly invest in and nurture. A good example of this is the opening of our new campus UCL East, the biggest expansion in our nearly 200-year history, which was the result of years of hard work with local and global partners. I am proud that KEF3 recognises our achievements - congratulations to all involved.”


Media contact

Mark Greaves

E: m.greaves [at] ucl.ac.uk