Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Higher Education Innovation Funding

The Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) supports knowledge exchange between higher education providers and the wider world that benefits society and the economy.

£260 million
Partners involved:
Research England, Office for Students (OfS)

The scope and what we're doing

We provide funding for knowledge exchange via the £260 million Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) to support and develop a broad range of knowledge-based interactions between higher education providers and the wider world, which results in benefits to the economy and society.


The aim is to create and sustain a range of knowledge exchange activities in response to demand across the economy and society.

It is designed to support and develop a broad range of knowledge-based interactions between higher education providers and the wider world, which results in economic and societal benefit to the UK.

What HEIF supports

HEIF supports and incentivises providers to work with business, public and third sector organisations, community bodies and the wider public, to exchange knowledge and increase the economic and societal benefit from their work.

In 2021 we commissioned analysis of financial and narrative data submitted by higher education providers through HEIF accountability and annual monitoring statements. Extracted data was used to explore trends in expenditure of HEIF funding and alignment with a number of themes. We also invited providers in receipt of HEIF to provide short case studies to demonstrate the value of HEIF.

We commission evidence from time to time to demonstrate the value delivered by our funding. This shows that HEIF provides a strong return on investment, with £8.30 generated for every £1 of funding. Further information on this evidence work can be viewed at the University Commercialisation and Innovation Policy Evidence Unit, including an Office for Students (OfS) commission looking at the key issues and methods for assessing the impact of this funding on student outcomes (PDF, 1869KB, University of Cambridge website).

Additional support for business and commercialisation

Research England have allocated an additional £20 million each year specifically focused on knowledge exchange with business and commercialisation.

This new funding supplements HEIF with a specific focus on driving additional business collaboration and commercialisation performance in line with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) guidance priority. Further information is provided in the November 2022 publication knowledge exchange: business and commercialisation.

Review of knowledge exchange funding

The BEIS funding and priorities letter 2021 to 2022 included guidance on our review of our knowledge exchange funding approaches.

Our review reflects the need to take account of development of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and Knowledge Exchange Concordat. As well as that, it is good practice to review formula funding methods periodically.

We are now publishing a timetable and plans for review, taking account of latest government priorities and working with OfS.

Review of knowledge exchange funding: stakeholder engagement and evidence summary.

An evaluation of the HEIF programme

Research England has commissioned an evaluation of their HEIF programme, which will run from 2022 to 2024.

Find out more about Higher Education Innovation Funding: evaluating value and impact.

Opportunities, support and resources available

How HEIF is allocated

The Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) is allocated by formula to all eligible providers who meet the performance threshold, subject to acceptance by Research England of an accountability statement in 2021.

Accountability statements

Accountability statements were requested through the 2020 publication HEIF policies and priorities.  Each individual accountability statement sets out a higher education provider’s plans for how they will use their HEIF allocations between 2021 to 2022, to 2024 to 2025 in relation to their strategic objectives and government priorities for knowledge exchange.

HEIF providers have been grouped by the relevant 2022 knowledge exchange (KE) cluster:

KE clusters were developed as part of the knowledge exchange framework as a means to group English providers of higher education that have similar capabilities and resources available to them to engage in knowledge exchange activities.

Read detailed information about how the knowledge exchange clusters were determined.

How allocations are calculated for individual providers

To target knowledge exchange funding where it can support higher education knowledge and skills to have the greatest impact on the economy and society, we only give HEIF to providers with evidence of significant knowledge exchange performance and partnerships.

To judge this, we use data on the income received by an institution from its users (businesses, public and third sector services, the community and wider public) as a proxy measure for the impact of its knowledge exchange activities.

We calculate allocations for individual providers by adding together their main knowledge exchange income indicators. This data is collected through:

  • data that providers submit to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in the Finance Record and Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) Record
  • data on knowledge transfer partnerships (KTPs) from Innovate UK.

We take account of income over a three year period, weighted towards the latest year of performance, providing a balance between stability and dynamism.

Read detailed information on how the formula for funding is calculated.

Cap on individual allocations

There is a cap on individual allocations so that no one institution receives a level of funding that disadvantages others. Where there is evidence that the cap is a constraint on an institution’s support of economic growth, we provide a supplement to enable their knowledge exchange strategies to be enhanced. The supplement is based on the provider’s shares of qualifying income (calculated according to the main knowledge exchange allocation method).

Frequency of allocations recalculations

Allocations are re-calculated annually based on the latest data and to reward recent performance. However, we also moderate year-on-year changes to give providers a level of predictability so that they can draw up five-year knowledge exchange programmes.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

In 2021 we invited higher education providers in receipt of the Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) allocations to provide us with up to two case studies of exemplar knowledge exchange projects or activities that have been supported by HEIF.

These case studies demonstrate the wide range of activities supported by HEIF and the societal, economic or student benefit achieved.  Submission of the case studies was entirely optional, and nothing should be inferred in relation to any provider who chose not to supply a case study.

Read the HEIF case studies from higher education providers.

Who to contact

Knowledge Exchange Policy


Evaluation queries

Michael Clark


Rosie Lavis


Governance, management and panels

Institutions in receipt of an Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) or non-recurrent KE funding allocation are required to provide an annual monitoring statement to Research England each winter. The template documents and updated guidance relating to the 2022 to 2023 HEIF and KE funding allocations were issued directly to relevant HEIs in late November 2023, for return by 21 February 2024. We expect annual monitoring for the 2023 to 2024 HEIF allocations to follow a similar timescale. Any queries should be directed to

Last updated: 28 November 2023

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