Unlocking Academic Impact: Discussing Valorisation at the 2023 UIIN Conference

By Catherine Hayward, Project Officer at UIIN  

As part of the UIIN conference last month, I had the pleasure to speak on valorisation, the REVALORISE+ project, and how we can support academics to create greater impact from their work. The UIIN Conference is recognised as the largest global event dedicated to university-industry interaction, entrepreneurial and engaged universities, and the future of higher education. The event brought together a diverse community of 350+ professionals from around the world, which served as a platform for stimulating discussions, knowledge exchange, and networking opportunities centred around unlocking the potential of academic research for societal and economic benefit.

Valorisation as a theme across the conference 

Panelists in several sessions across the conference outlined research insights, programmes & mechanisms, and innovative case studies related to valorisation, exploring diverse approaches to supporting academics and sharing best practices. The discussions provided valuable insights and offered practical guidance for professionals seeking to enhance their institutions’ research valorisation efforts. The main valorisation-related takeaways from the conference centred around the importance of raising awareness of the topic amongst researchers & university professional staff and fostering (multidisciplinary) collaborations for successful valorisation. However, there were also specific insights that proved valuable.

Expert knowledge and good practice examples for supporting valorisation  

In terms of driving innovation through research commercialisation and spin-off pathways, experts from Vrije Universiteit Brussels and the University of Cambridge respectively outlined the different models of university venture capital in Europe and how they are structured, and approaches of UK universities to spinning out companies and understanding challenges and opportunities for social science researchers when they approach commercialisation as a pathway to impact.

Additionally, the Aspect Network outlined its strategy for developing good practices in SSH valorisation. Aspect is a consortium of 42 universities and partners and is undertaking new projects including The ARC Accelerator, the Academic Promotion Pathways linked to Enterprise (APPLE) project, and the Aspect Angels Network, which aims to address gaps in SHAPE commercialisation support, promotion pathways for academics, and funding.

Insightful valorisation case studies beyond social sciences and humanities were also presented. Particular cases that stood out included the development of Education University of Hong Kong’s Knowledge Transfer Sub-Office, which is an inspiring example of a smaller, non-tech institution successfully sustaining and growing while supporting education-centred ventures.

Insights for the REVALORISE+ project  

Alongside the case studies and good practices, a number of particularly interesting findings were outlined, including that (i) many SSH ventures require pre-acceleration programmes, as they are not yet ready to join the accelerator; (ii) two out of three SSH ventures are service based, (iii) having accelerators specifically for SSH results in more ventures being initiated at the university and generates greater interest and funding for SSH, and (iv) having gender parity in spinout teams leads to higher rates of success of the venture.

And how can we give academics the support they need to be able to valorise their research? Much like the journey that the REVALORISE+ project has taken, the key steps are to conduct research to understand the skills & knowledge needs of academics and the professional staff supporting them, develop and deliver training that addresses these needs, and create and collate resources that they can refer to along their valorisation journey.

From these observations, it is clear that the UIIN Conference provided a platform for professionals to come together, share knowledge, and collectively advance the field of research valorisation. As we reflect on the discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities, it becomes evident that supporting academics in creating greater impact from their work is not only an aspiration but an imperative for universities and industries alike. By embracing collaboration, nurturing innovation, and building robust support systems, we can unlock the full potential of research, fostering a future where academic discoveries drive meaningful societal change.

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