£1.2 million awarded to establish Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation

Research England has awarded a grant of £1.2 million to the University of Cambridge to establish a Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation (UCI), which will be developed in partnership with the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (CSTI) at the Institute for Manufacturing and the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB).


This grant forms part of a group of grants from Research England to support programmes working to dramatically increase the economic value and social impacts derived from university research, both internationally and in the UK.


The new unit will help to drive a step change in universities’ contributions to delivering increased R&D and innovation in the UK through these uncertain and turbulent times. It will create much needed capacity to support the needs of UK government departments, funding agencies, and universities for better data, evidence, and expert insights, to develop more effective approaches for university commercialisation and innovation.


The needs for better evidence are growing as we move from the immediate COVID-19 pandemic crisis into the longer-term economic recovery period, and as the government looks to maximise the value realised from its increasing investments in the research base.


Universities need to find new ways of working with businesses, investors and others to open up opportunities for wealth creation, address emerging innovation challenges, and improve productivity. To unlock this potential, governments will have to adapt policies and funding programmes to become key enabling partners in this process.


Working closely with key stakeholders, UCI will be initially focusing on three areas:

  • First, developing an evidence base on how the COVID-19 induced economic crisis is affecting universities’ abilities to contribute to innovation, and identify possible actions to ensure they are able to play a strategic and active role in the national economic recovery.
  • Second, improving our understanding of the research-to-innovation commercialisation journeys and examining how policies and university practices could be strengthened to deliver increased value to the UK.
  • Third, advancing the data and metrics available to better capture the performance of universities in delivering economic and social impacts through their commercialisation activities to facilitate more effective benchmarking and evaluation of performance.

Tomas Ulrichsen, Director of the new Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation, said:


“I am delighted to bring CSTI and NCUB expertise together to establish this important new policy evidence unit. UCI will be dedicated to building UK capacity to help strengthen the significant contributions that universities make to innovation through their commercialisation, partnerships and other knowledge exchange activities.


The funding support from Research England Development Fund enables us to support policymakers, funders and universities with better and more targeted evidence and expert insight, to consider how to build on and adapt their approaches to university-driven commercialisation and innovation. This will help economies across the UK recover, reconfigure, and thrive through the economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.”


Dr Eoin O’Sullivan, Director of the Centre for Science, Technology & Innovation (CSTI), said:


“At a time of significant uncertainty and change, when the UK research and innovation base has critical role to play in national recovery and future industrial competitiveness, it is vital that policy makers receive focused and actionable evidence in a timely way. We are extremely pleased to be partners of the new policy unit, supporting their efforts to deliver timely policy studies and rapid-response analyses on topics related to emerging technology commercialisation and knowledge exchange.


UCI is an important new policy evidence activity in the UK’s research & innovation system, bringing together state-of-the-art insights from academic innovation policy research with the professional expertise and insights of the UK’s commercialisation and knowledge exchange communities in both industry and higher education.”


Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said:


“We are delighted that NCUB is a strategic partner to the critical work that this new policy unit will be advancing. The nation’s recovery from this crisis will be aided and powered by new ideas commercialised from our world-leading universities into business-led innovation. Understanding how this collaboration happens and how we can encourage greater levels of collaboration is a key driver for the work of NCUB. We are therefore thrilled to have this fantastic opportunity to work with leading experts in this arena and play a role in rebuilding a dynamic, inclusive, and resilient economy.”




About Research England


Research England, which is part of the UK Research and Innovation, supports providers of Higher Education in England to deliver funding for research and knowledge exchange formerly performed by HEFCE. This includes quality-related block grants to higher education institutions. The aim of the RED fund is to drive innovation in research and knowledge exchange in higher education.


About CSTI


The Centre for Science, Technology & Innovation Policy (CSTI) is a research centre within the Institute for Manufacturing carrying out applied, policy-focused research to develop insights into the innovation programmes and processes for translating government-funded research into new technologies, industries and economic wealth.


Projects aim to support the longer-term evidence needs of policymakers, especially those research and innovation agency officials responsible for programme design, portfolio management and strategy development.


Anchored in the science and engineering community and strongly connected in the world of policy, CSTI draws on concepts from R&D management, innovation economics and science & technology policy to deliver its practical, applied research programme.


About NCUB


The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) represents a collective voice of leaders across higher education and business and aims to tackle issues of shared interest. The NCUB is an independent and not-for-profit membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports university-business collaboration across the UK. The NCUB was established in 2013. To keep abreast of our campaigns and news, follow us on Twitter @NCUBtweets and on LinkedIn

Date published

16 July 2020

For further information please contact:

Tomas Ulrichsen

E: tc267@cam.ac.uk

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