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Knowledge exchange: University of Hull one of top performers for research partnerships

The University of Hull has been recognised as one of the top performers in research partnerships and its work with the public and third sector – according to KEF2 data published today by Research England.

KEF2 provides data-based metrics that look at the performance of English Higher Education Providers (HEPs) in Knowledge Exchange – the process that brings together academic staff, users of research and wider groups and communities to exchange ideas, evidence and expertise.

Professor Dave Petley, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hull, said: “Knowledge exchange is a crucial part of our work at the University of Hull. These results highlight our commitment to effective research partnerships and to public and community engagement; our contribution to local growth and regeneration; the success of our partnerships and the way we are sharing advanced knowledge and research with industry, business and third-sector organisations.

“Like other universities across the UK, the University of Hull makes a rich economic and social contribution – regionally and nationally. The KEF results recognise this.

“We will continue to build on this success by working collaboratively across the University and with our partners in the public sector, in business and in the charitable sector.”

The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) measures the efficiency and effectiveness of knowledge exchange in universities in seven key areas, providing a picture of how they engage with external partners to contribute both to the economy and society. Now in its second year and developed by Research England, it forms the third pillar of assessment of universities’ activities, alongside the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

 A key objective of the KEF is to enable fair comparison of institutions across a diverse sector. Institutions have therefore been grouped into ‘clusters’ – groups of institutions that have been deemed similar for the purposes of comparing knowledge exchange activities.

The University of Hull is in Cluster X, which contains large, research-intensive and broad-discipline universities undertaking a significant amount of world-leading research. Other universities in Cluster X include Durham, Exeter, Keele, Lancaster, Leicester, LSE, Surrey and York.

aura innovation centre
Aura innovation centre

Highlights of the University’s performance in KEF2 are:

  • 1st/top quintile for research partnerships
  • 1st/top quintile for work with the public and third sector
  • 2nd quintile work in IP and commercialisation
  • 2nd quintile for contribution to local growth and regeneration

Types of knowledge exchange

Collaborative research

Collaborative research is where a university, working with a non-academic collaborator (such as an industry partner), receives public funding to undertake a piece of research.

For example, the University’s research with the Environment Agency, Association of Drainage Authorities and Internal Drainage Boards will tackle the issues that are leading to declining eel populations. Pumping stations are essential to manage flood risk, but are most active during the silver eel autumn migration, posing a risk to safe eel passage.

The University is working with its partners to identify ways of reducing the impact of pumping stations on this endangered species, such as altering sluicing operations and developing an innovative eel bypass route around pumps.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

The University has a range of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). These are part of a Government backed scheme that is designed to help businesses in the UK to innovate and grow. A KTP links a company with a university and a skilled graduate to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project through a knowledge-based partnership.

One recent 24 month project between the Spencer Group and the University has applied research in data analytics, natural language processing and artificial intelligence to analyse a repository of disparate types of company documents.

The project identified patterns, extracted information and generated insights towards more effective workflows and informed decision support.

Consultancy

The University also provides consultancy: expert advice, analysis and interpretation to address external clients’ specific questions or problems. For example, the Centre for Human Factors has been working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to address work-related stress rates. This work supports ongoing R&D including the digital development and dissemination of a remote working stress risk assessment tool for employers that will shortly be released.

The work is gaining traction in a range of UK sectors, in particular in blue light services, local government and renewable energy. As awareness of the tools develops and the evidence base increases, they have the potential to impact the health and wellbeing of millions of people through assisting employers to understand and manage the root causes of work-related stress.

viper-supercomputer
VIPER - high performance supercomputer.

Contract research

Contract research is undertaken by universities to meet the specific research needs of external partners. For example, the University is working with Yorkshire Water to identify how flow and habitat modifications associated with reservoirs can be used to enhance fisheries and ensure future resilience of fish populations under increasing pressure for water resources.

The research will help Yorkshire Water meet regulatory requirements while protecting the environment and providing water resources for the people and businesses of the Yorkshire region.

Intellectual property and commercialisation

The University of Hull's research generates ground-breaking intellectual property, such as inventions that tackle global challenges and benefit society. For instance, the University is currently developing a dual-source heat pump which builds on a BEIS project with Hull City Council, and is advancing a low-carbon heating technology to tackle the challenge of defrosting conventional air source heat pumps.

The technology provides a unique defrosting approach using the exhaust air from buildings, with near-zero electricity consumption. It uses two-stage evaporation to achieve high-temperature hot water and recover the ventilation heat, resulting in a waste heat recovery rate of more than 100%. It has a huge market potential as the exhaust air is an inevitable product of buildings.

Continuous Professional Development

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is the learning activity professionals engage in to develop their abilities. The University offers a wide range of CPD, enabling access to the latest academic knowledge and expertise to enhance workforces.

For example, CATALYST is a career development programme designed for new-to-practice GPs across the Humber, Coast and Vale area. Developed by Hull York Medical School’s Academy of Primary Care, this 12-month programme has been designed to provide key knowledge and skills which GPs will need to deliver better care to their patients now and in the future, and which will enable them to be at the forefront of developments in primary care practice.

Public and community engagement

Public and community engagement means the multitude of ways in which the benefits of universities’ education and research are shared with the public in a two-way process generating mutual benefit.

For instance, working with the Wellcome Trust and British Science Association we have been one of the pilot areas for the Ideas Fund programme. This focuses on knowledge exchange and public engagement based in Hull.

A number of successful projects have been funded, ranging from exploring use of green spaces for mental wellbeing in Rewilding Youth; to working with people who have dementia and engaging different artists to develop resources to assist families in understanding the experiences of living with dementia; to working with Fitmums, who have been using literature to explore feelings around bereavement.

Facilities and equipment

A range of businesses and other external parties use the University’s specialist facilities and equipment. The wide array of available facilities ranges from visualisation environments to acoustic centres, 3D printers, medical teaching facilities, and the University’s multi-million-pound high performance supercomputer.

Alongside these facilities, the University’s Aura Innovation Centre and Flood Innovation Centre provide a community to support businesses of all sizes, helping to drive innovation in the areas of low-carbon and flood resilience, while its Enterprise Centre is a thriving community of ambitious start-ups and a hub for entrepreneurs.

Through these varied types of knowledge exchange the University of Hull supports businesses to innovate and thrive, and helps tackle local, national and global challenges.

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