UCL’s role as a leader in knowledge exchange has been recognised in the results of the UK’s first Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), announced by Research England today.
The KEF has placed UCL in the top 10% of all English universities - the highest possible band - for ’Research Partnerships’, ’Public and Community Engagement’ and ’Intellectual Property and Commercialisation’.
This high positioning reflects UCL’s strength in these areas, and the importance it places on working in close collaboration with external partners to solve the big challenges of our time. The evaluation also highlights the quality and relevance of the technologies and innovations developed by UCL researchers, and the university’s expertise at translating and applying its knowledge and ideas externally.
KEF assesses how English Higher Education Providers (HEPs) serve the economy and society, locally and nationally, for the benefit of the public, business and communities and how they commercialise research.
Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), said: "We welcome the scope and breadth of the KEF in seeking to capture and celebrate the great diversity of work that universities do in this space. UCL not only generates new knowledge and analysis, our research-intensive and innovation-led culture encourages the free flow of those ideas through partnership and collaboration.
"We work closely with a broad range of external partners including business, governments, communities and the NHS, to deliver significant change and impact for society and the economy on a local, national and global level. It’s excellent to see this hard work recognised with sector leading performances in areas such as research partnerships, public and community engagement and intellectual property and commercialisation."
A total of 117 out of 135 Higher Education institutions provided detailed narrative accounts of the work they do to build public and community engagement, and to promote economic growth in their local area.
The KEF compares institutions on a like-for-like basis, with similar institutions being grouped together with their peers in ’KEF clusters’ based on factors like their size, specialisation and the intensity of their research activities.
UCL’s peer group is cluster V, with 16 other large research-intensive institutions, including Imperial College London and the Universities of Oxford, Bristol, Cambridge and Manchester.
Dr Kathryn Walsh, Executive Director, Office of the Vice-Provost (Enterprise) at UCL, said: "Knowledge exchange has always been central to UCL’s mission, and is arguably more important than ever before. The pandemic has brought into sharp focus how vital it is for universities to translate their knowledge and ideas externally and work with business, government and others to address the very immediate challenges that society now faces."
UCL has a long and rich history of innovation and enterprise which it has built through partnerships, commercialisation, consultancy, social enterprise, public engagement and development of the entrepreneurial mindset among its staff and students.
Major achievements include: the development of the thermionic valve which ushered in the electronics age in the late 19th century; paving the way for the internet in Europe in the 20th century; and pioneering cancer immunotherapy in the 21st century.
Based in Bloomsbury, in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter, UCL works closely with both government and industry, as well as leading academic, cultural, community, scientific research and media organisations, including The Alan Turing Institute, The British Library, British Museum, Francis Crick Institute, Google and GSK.
UCL is an integral partner to world-leading healthcare organisations such as University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. The university also works alongside multiple other NHS trusts, learned societies and research institutes.
The 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.
Examples of how UCL contributes to society through knowledge exchange:
- UCL spinouts and startups help attract external investment into the UK, creating jobs and driving innovation. In 2019/20, UCL spinouts and startups employed over 3,000 people, and between 2018-2020 attracted over £1bn of external investment.
- In the past two years, UCL has been advising almost 400 London SME businesses on how to innovate, and how to survive and grow during the pandemic.
- Across all disciplines, UCL boosts the entrepreneurial mind-set and employability of its students, helping launch businesses into London’s startup ecosystem. Last year, three UCL start-ups were selected for Y-Combinator, one of the world’s leading accelerator programmes.
- Since 2018, five UCL biotech spinouts achieved milestone public listings on the NASDAQ, helping bring potentially life-changing treatments closer to patients. This includes Freeline Therapeutics, which is developing new gene therapies for chronic genetic diseases, such as haemophilia B, a disorder that impacts health and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people globally.
- The UCL Technology Fund (UCLTF) supports the next generation of commercialisation of world class research. In August 2020, UCLTF announced the first close of a £100m target Fund 2, backed by British Patient Capital.
- Early in the pandemic, engineers and clinicians from UCL, UCLH and Mercedes AMG HPP came together to rapidly develop and manufacture the CPAP Ventura breathing aid for seriously ill COVID-19 patients. The device is now being used in over 115 NHS hospitals in the UK. Over 100 countries have been given free access to the designs and manufacturing instructions.
- UCL is a key provider of expert consultancy for the government and the professions. For example, the university is training Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office diplomats and development staff in economics. It is also one of the key organisations delivering the national roll-out of the Department of Education’s Early Career Framework for teachers and has representation on expert panels such as SAGE.
- UCL has taken a pioneering approach to public engagement, prioritising working in partnership with communities. For example, Co-Production Collective is an open community delivering initiatives such as Hearing Birdsong which fuses art and technology to raise awareness of hearing loss in underrepresented groups.
- Over 250,000 people attended UCL’s public events in 2019/20