HEIF allocations

26 May 2011

Commenting on HEFCE’s announcement of the final allocations of the Higher Education Innovation Fund, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“The Russell Group welcomes the Government’s confirmation of changes to the allocation of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).  Lifting the cap and introducing a minimum threshold will help target the limited resources through HEIF on those universities best able to translate world-class research and knowledge into economic benefit to the UK.  The increase in funding to the most effective institutions will allow them to expand their innovation and knowledge transfer activity, and to help generate even greater economic impacts.

“Knowledge transfer activity within leading research-intensive universities is very efficient and effective, and significantly outperforms the rest of the HE sector. According to a recent survey by the UK Innovation Research Centre, academics at Russell Group institutions are more likely to have taken out a patent, licensed their research to a company or formed a spin-out than academics at other UK institutions. Examples of initiatives which have benefited from HEIF funding include:

  • Proof of concept funding - the University of Sheffield: the scheme awards funding to help take innovative concepts developed by university staff closer to commercial viability, and has resulted in license deals worth nearly £100,000 and over £9M in additional research grants;
  • Business Gateway – the University of Liverpool: the gateway facilitated intellectual property generated by a research grant, attracting subsequent investment from Unilever Ventures Ltd, and the formation of IOTA NanoSolutions Ltd in 2005.  IOTA now holds sixteen patents, has thirteen employees, and won the ‘Science and Technology Business of the Year’ Award and the ‘BioNow’ Award for Regional Biomedical start-up of the year.

“Through HEIF funding, Russell Group universities work with other universities to combine collective expertise in technology transfer, and to generate economies of scale.  Examples include: 

  • Medici programme – the University of Birmingham: the programme was established in 2002, run by a consortium of five Midlands universities and managed by the University of Birmingham.  The programme provides commercialisation skills and experience to biomedical researchers, and has since expanded to include fifteen Midlands universities.  In more recent years, the programme has focused on providing commercialisation training to academics.     
  • UCL Advances – University College London: the centre for entrepreneurship and business interaction at UCL was formed in 2007, and relies on HEIF funding for its core funding. It concentrates on stimulating entrepreneurship among staff, students and the wider local community, and offers extracurricular programmes, business support, training in starting businesses and small company management.  Last year, 2,500 students participated in an Advances entrepreneurship activity and nearly 200 local entrepreneurs received mentoring, student consultancy or other support.  Through UCL Advances, UCL has also partnered with other local universities to pool activities such as its business plan competition, the E-Challenge, which this year saw entrants from institutions including UCL, London Business School, Birkbeck College and the Royal Veterinary College.

“The Government’s changes to the allocation of HEIF will help to ensure Russell Group universities build on these initiatives, and fulfil their potential in knowledge transfer activities. Although a cap remains on the amount of HEIF funding available to any single institution – restricting the ability of research-intensive universities to receive funding in proportion to the full scale or excellence of their knowledge base – the Government’s changes to the allocation of HEIF are positive moves in the right direction.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Russell Group publication The economic impact of research conducted in Russell Group universities set out how groundbreaking research conducted in Russell Group universities has resulted in far-reaching benefits which have been shared by the UK’s businesses, government and taxpayer.  
  2. The HEFCE third stream evaluation report (March 2009) shows that there is a strong positive correlation between third stream funding and the level of knowledge exchange income received by universities.  The report shows that the higher research-intensive HEIs generate more gross additional KE income per pound of third stream funding received, than less research-intensive HEIs.  For the most research-intensive universities, the return achieved of every £1 on HEIF is between £8 and £14, compared to between £5 and £7 for all HEIs. 
  3. UK Innovation Research Centre, Knowledge exchange between academics and the business, public and third sectors, 2009.

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