Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Higher Education Innovation Fund

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

£230 million
Partners involved:
Research England (RE), Office for Students (OfS)

The scope and what we're doing

We provide funding for knowledge exchange via the £230 million Higher Education Innovation Fund (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 result 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.

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 commission looking at the key issues and methods for assessing the impact of this funding on student outcomes (PDF).

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 the Knowledge Exchange Concordat. As well as that, it is good practice to review formula funding methods (HEIF) periodically.

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

View the publication: review of knowledge exchange funding: stakeholder engagement and evidence summary.

Opportunities, support and resources available

How HEIF is allocated

The Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) is allocated by formula to all eligible providers, subject to acceptance by Research England of an institutional strategy and plan for knowledge exchange.

For more detailed information see Research England funding allocations.

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. But 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.

Who to contact

Knowledge Exchange Policy


Governance, management and panels

Institutions in receipt of an HEIF allocation are required to provide an annual monitoring statement to Research England each winter. The template documents and updated guidance relating to the 2020 to 2021 HEIF allocation were issued directly to relevant HEIs in November 2021, for return by Thursday, 17 February 2022. We expect annual monitoring for the 2021 to 2022 HEIF allocations to follow a similar timescale. Any queries should be directed to

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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