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OU research and public engagement recognised in first KEF

The Open University’s (OU) ability to license its intellectual property, form research partnerships and engage with the public, performed well in the first Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF).


Top for IP
In the KEF results published by Research England, the OU performed:

  • in the top 30% for Intellectual Property (IP) and commercialisation and
  • in the top 40% for both Research partnerships and Public and community engagement.
  • In the top 50% for Skills, enterprise, and entrepreneurship

“The OU has a unique approach to knowledge exchange that supports our mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.” said Professor Kevin Shakesheff, the incoming Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Enterprise and Scholarship. Our partnership with the BBC, commitment to citizen science and exceptional free-learning platforms open up knowledge exchange opportunities to people across the 4 nations of UK and beyond. The recognition of our growing strength in intellectual property and commercialisation is very good news and will be part of our commitment to delivering the new University strategy as part of a balanced approached to engagement across the UK and internationally.”


Accessing world-class knowledge
The aim of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) is to increase efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public funding for knowledge exchange (KE) and to further a culture of continuous improvement in universities. It will allow universities to better understand and improve their own performance, as well as provide businesses and other users with more information to help them access the world-class knowledge and expertise embedded in English Higher Education Providers (HEP).

The data, available on the KEF’s interactive and detailed new website, informs a series of metrics that look at the performance of English HEPS from a variety of different perspectives. These perspectives include public and community engagement, working with partners ranging from big businesses to small local firms, and how they commercialise their research.

Executive Chair of Research England David Sweeney said:

“Universities’ engagement with society through Knowledge Exchange is an essential part of their mission alongside research and teaching. 

“The Knowledge Exchange Framework will help universities understand where their strengths are, relative to others with similar missions. It showcases a diverse picture of the tremendous work they do in their places, nationally and internationally.”


Fair comparisons of similar institutions
The KEF compares institutions on a like-for-like basis, with similar institutions being grouped together with their peers in ‘KEF clusters’ based on factors like their size, specialisation and the intensity of their research activities.

The OU is one of the 28 universities in Cluster E, which features large universities with broad discipline portfolio across both STEM and non-STEM generating excellent research across all disciplines, with a large proportion of part-time undergraduate students and a small postgraduate population dominated by taught postgraduates.

The OU has a UK wide presence, delivering world-leading teaching, research, and knowledge exchange across all four Nations of the UK, with offices in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh and a main campus in Milton Keynes. This national presence enables activity to be focused where it can achieve greatest impact for local growth and regeneration across the UK and internationally. 

In Northern Ireland, although not reporting into the OU’s KEF, there is considerable engagement and work taking place in knowledge exchange within the region.  For example, in Northern Ireland The Open University takes part in the Connected project, funded by the Department for the Economy. This is the first KE programme, in the UK, delivered across HE and FE and aims to support SME’s by exchanging knowledge and research through collaboration, with the purpose of benefiting the NI economy. 

Across the island of Ireland, the OU provides the ‘Open for Growth’, an online business development pilot program to support SMEs in Ireland. Under the guidance of an OU Learning Adviser experienced in businesses development, participants from small businesses develop their understanding of key business areas which contribute to business growth and innovation.

These are just some of the examples of the Knowledge Exchange activity taking place in Ireland.  For more information on the local work in knowledge exchange or how you can get involved in this work linking industry with research then please contact: Imelda Haran Knowledge Exchange Manager in Ireland by email at

Find out more about OU research excellence

For media enquiries:

Contact Christine Murphy

Communications Manager
Tel 028 9053 6219