University of Leicester celebrates Knowledge Exchange Framework results

The University of Leicester is celebrating its performance in the third iteration of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). 

The KEF demonstrates the range of activities universities have with external, non-academic partners across seven categories, and allows comparisons across universities.

The University of Leicester has been identified as having ‘very high engagement’ compared to other universities in these four categories: 

  • research partnerships
  • local growth and regeneration
  • working with the public and third sector
  • intellectual property and commercialisation 

For all of these areas the University sits in the top 20% of Higher Education providers in England and exceeds the average for universities of its size and type.

Leicester also has ‘high engagement’ (top 40% in the country) in a further three categories: 

  • public and community engagement 
  • working with business;
  • continuing professional development and graduate start-ups

The latest KEF results allow year-by-year comparison for the first time, showing that the University of Leicester’s strong performance in the KEF last year, has further improved, moving up in both Research Partnerships and Public and Community Engagement. The University is also above average compared to a cluster of similar institutions in six out of seven categories.

The full results and interactive dashboards are available on the KEF website.

Knowledge exchange with non-academic partners is a crucial part of the University’s strategy, Citizens of Change. Knowledge Exchange, Innovation and Enterprise are core to our University mission and civic responsibility in ensuring that our research and teaching has meaningful positive impact: boosting productivity, jobs and wellbeing in our region, making a positive impact on society. Knowledge exchange happens throughout the whole institution and is supported through partnerships with non-academic organisations. Our research institutes and centres enable research-focused knowledge exchange, and major initiatives, such as Space Park Leicester, and our developing Heritage Hub and Health Technology Accelerator, provide platforms to increase the scale and ambition of our knowledge exchange.

Professor Phil Baker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Enterprise, said: “I am very pleased to see Leicester again ranked as a top-performing university – this time for our extensive knowledge exchange activities.”

He added: “These new KEF results demonstrate that we continue to make progress relative to the wider sector and our closest peers – and is testament to the commitment of our staff in engagement with non-academic partners. Knowledge exchange is crucial to fulfil our strategy to deliver world-changing research and is the route through which we translate knowledge into tangible benefits for society, the economy, health and the environment.”

Space Park Leicester is a major component of the University’s Knowledge Exchange strategy. Having opened in July 2021, it is now home to 20 businesses employing more than 200 people. Partners at Space Park Leicester are engaged in collaborative research, consultancy projects and contract research. It is host to European Space Agency Business Incubator, which houses high-growth companies, such as ODIN Space, which is working on a system that will prevent space debris from destroying satellites – a problem which is forecast to cost the space sector around $3 billion annually by 2030.The last year has seen the launch of Space City, promoting Leicester as an investment, business and visitor centre for space. Space Park has also hosted arts and community events as part of the University’s public engagement strategy. 

The University’s Heritage Hub is building an ambitious, sustainable partnership between local authorities in Leicester and Northamptonshire to creatively combine our internationally renowned expertise and resources in heritage and related fields. Experts from the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History have collaborated with the Chester House team since 2019 to make local history, archaeology and heritage accessible and engaging, and to maximise community engagement with the unique archaeological opportunities along the Nene Valley. In the city, a University-supported, acclaimed exhibition celebrating the UK’s punk scene has been nominated for a National Lottery Award.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships support businesses to innovate and create new products, services or processes, in partnership with a university. One of the University’s recent examples is a partnership with Cambridge-based Isogenica to develop novel antibodies to redirect patients’ immune systems to destroy malignancies directly. 

The University plays a leading role in meaningful patient and public involvement (PPI) with 600 current contributors and expertise in impact assessment, testing novel approaches and sharing good practice. The University’s PPI strategy is adopted by other organisations, and its Centre for Ethnic Health Research runs training courses in effective community engagement and cultural competence. The approach is tailored to the needs of the region’s specific communities, addressing diversity and inequalities. Leicester has a high ethnic diversity and larger underserved communities. Led by the Centre for Ethnic Health Research (CEHR) and Biomedical Research Centre, the University has spent many years building links with communities across the city. The CEHR leads extensive community engagement in addressing health inequalities. The centre worked alongside academics at the Leicester Diabetes Centre to develop a Community Champions programme, Empowering Communities, to ensure key community leaders can screen for type 2 diabetes risk and raise the awareness of diabetes, signposting for further support.