Research England has published an interim review carried out by IP Pragmatics of the progress of the Connecting Capability Fund (CCF) Programme. The CCF is a £100 million Government-funded initiative administered by Research England to encourage collaboration between universities in their research commercialisation activities. The programme has funded 18 innovative projects, each involving at least three Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England.
The projects began in April 2018, and are due to run for three years until March 2021. In order to understand the potential impact of the programme, our independent interim review of the programme as a whole is based on insights from telephone interviews with representatives from each of the CCF projects and selected other stakeholders which took place in August and September 2019, and supplemented by an analysis of project documentation and public information.
The projects represent a wide range of potential approaches to commercial knowledge exchange, and include creative, social sciences, and design-led approaches as well as the more traditional areas of high tech and healthcare. Although it is still too early to judge the potential impact of the programme, much has already been achieved. There are schemes aimed at increasing the commercial readiness of HEI or industry ideas, using proof-of-concept funding and other support mechanisms. Training & skills are being developed amongst KE professionals, academics, and industry (in particular SMEs). Some programmes focus on accelerator programmes for new spin-outs, which has led to one project reporting a 4-fold increase in spin-out activity, whilst another has supported the first ever spin-out from one of its member HEIs. Easier access for industry to work with universities is demonstrated by the significant amount of leveraged funding that has already been received to support many collaborative projects. Others are working on improving access to finance and planning for legacy venture capital funds to continue to invest in the pipeline of spin-out projects.
There is also evidence of achievements in the third aim of the CCF programme, which is to incentivise sharing of expertise in knowledge exchange and commercialisation and dissemination of good practice across the sector. This can be seen within, between, and beyond the projects, with increased collaboration across the board. We also found that the scale of these projects has raised the profile of knowledge exchange within the partners, bringing in senior university management engagement and increasing an awareness of the potential benefits that it can bring.
Overall, the responses to the CCF scheme were very positive, and seen as additive to the existing funding for these activities. The evidence collected to date and outlined in our report suggests that there are already many positive benefits coming from the scheme with more expected to come. The projects are contributing well to all aspects of the overall objectives of the programme. Continued support for future rounds of the scheme would allow the projects that have started to be refined and optimised and deliver additional impact. Further value could also be gained by extending the scheme to some other HEIs that are not yet participants, through funding new schemes and/or through supporting some of the existing schemes to expand their membership.
The full report can be downloaded via the following link.
For more information, contact Elaine Eggington