Exeter has rethought engagement with business and other external partners and established a new team to support impact and partnership development across different sectors and themes. The new team called Innovation, Impact and Business (IIB) aims for pro-active co-creation with business and other organisations; building strategic partnerships with key global players; fostering innovation and entrepreneurship amongst our staff and students; and driving place-based research and innovation to help build a South West Powerhouse.
Delivering high quality impact will become increasingly important in universities and will transform the way in which universities go about external engagement and knowledge transfer. Despite Stern’s apparent relaxation of the rules in the next REF there is still a need to submit excellent case studies for each Unit of Assessment – and the impact element will be worth at least 20 per cent of the total income. It is astonishing to note that in the 2014 REF, a 4* case study was worth over 20 times the value of a 3* journal article or publication – up to £500K over five years. There aren’t many business engagement activities that can guarantee that level of future income.
What success looks like
Exeter has been asking academics to think about the potential future impact of their work. Over 400 possible areas for development have been identified across all our disciplines. For the first time in my career, academics are telling business engagement professionals what success looks like for them and the IIB team is taking the hint.
The kinds of things needed to deliver impact are key to the offer of the new Innovation, Impact and Business Directorate – such as building strong partnerships with sets of communities, supporting research collaboration, consultancy, commercial ventures, licensing, training programmes or significant regional engagement. We will also be looking to support policy developments, cultural projects, jointly offered degrees and any number of public engagement initiatives.
Taken broadly, impact activities can act as the glue around which all the normal mechanisms of business engagement can coalesce. If impact becomes a key currency of success, the IIB team will be helping academics build engaged and long-term collaborations with external partners rather than focusing on short-term income generation. If we build the impact and prove our value then the income will surely flow.