Knowledge Exchange and Impact – the wider context

Being able to demonstrate the academic, economic, environmental or societal impact of research has become an integral factor in securing funding from the Government and Research Councils. 

Knowledge Exchange Framework and Concordat

In the 2017 Industrial Strategy, the government committed to an ambitious target to increase investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.  This ambition was restated in the 2020 Research & Development Roadmap.  Universities are seen as key to delivering this strategy.  The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and Knowledge Exchange Concordat (KEC) both form part of the response to this challenge, with a focus on improving university performance in knowledge exchange.

The KE Concordat was launched in 2020.  Universities have been asked to sign up to the Concordat and commit to its aims and principles.  In England, higher education providers have been invited to participate in a development year during 2020/21.  This involves preparation of a self-evaluation in relation to the principles of the KE Concordat and the production of a three-to-five year action plan.

The results of the first iteration of the KEF were released in March 2021 and provide information about the achievements of Universities in serving the economy and society for the benefit of the public, business and communities.  For more information about KEF and our results visit here.

Professor Trevor McMillan and Dr Hamish McAlpine (Head of KE data and evidence at Research England) hosted a session during our Making an Impact programme, discussing the KEC and next steps for KEF. You can watch the session here.

Research Excellence Framework

After being introduced in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, impact has been retained as a core strand of the current REF 2021 submission, its importance evidenced by an increased weighting of 25% of the overall results profile.  Each unit submission to REF includes Impact Case Studies that describe tangible impacts achieved during the assessment period arising from excellent research.

Visit the REF Intranet for more information about REF 2021.


The importance of research with wider societal impact and benefit has been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis.  Universities have been crucial in responding to the pandemic and contributing to national efforts to fight the outbreak.  Researchers at University of Liverpool are playing critical roles in local, national and global efforts to combat the virus and find solutions to the adverse effects the pandemic has had on public health, our economy and society.