Today Research England announced its funding allocations for 2022-2025. Included within that is a £6 million fund in 2022-23 to support knowledge exchange at institutions not routinely in receipt of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF). Fantastic news and a long time coming.

When George Osborne imposed austerity in the wake of the financial crash, one seemingly small decision – to restrict HEIF to institutions over a threshold of return on investment – had a huge impact on smaller HE institutions, effectively cutting them off from dedicated funding for innovation and knowledge exchange. Ever since, GuildHE have argued that it was a mistake. 

We gathered evidence, including in the joint report with the OECD ‘Innovation Systems and the role of Smaller and Specialist Institutions’ and worked to raise the profile of knowledge exchange at our member institutions. In that time we have repeatedly demonstrated that smaller and specialist institutions could offer real and tangible strengths, particularly in social and cultural economic impacts, in areas of the country and with communities that were largely untouched by other institutions.

To capitalise on their networks, their specialisms, and their potential, such institutions need external funds; there is simply not the flexibility of resources at smaller institutions to generate the activities without it. We were delighted by the announcement of a one year allocation to institutions not in receipt of HEIF in 2021, and our members have seen their knowledge exchange activities thrive as a result. Indeed we have seen institutions place knowledge exchange front and centre in strategies, letting it take the lead from research, as it fits so well alongside the way they teach and the subjects in which they specialise.

The news that this “HEIF for non-HEIF” allocation will be reprised for 2022-2023 is fantastic. It will empower our institutions to take the good work they have started and go further, be more ambitious, and give them a modicum of stability, which may in some cases result in joining the ‘peloton’ of HEIF institutions.

It is also notable that investments in Enhancing Research Culture and Participatory Research through QR will be retained until 2025. These will extend good work begun in these areas by our members in recent months, which GuildHE Research have supported through sessions on allyship and resilience, leadership, peer research, and creating community partnerships. 

We welcome the opportunity these crucial funds provide to work with everyone in research to create a step change in culture, to reframe those involved in creating and devising the research itself, and deliver knowledge exchange across the full diversity of higher education institutions.