Chapter 5. Enhancing knowledge exchange with higher education institutions in the Netherlands

This chapter expands on the findings presented in Chapter 2 related to knowledge exchange and collaboration. Given future economic and societal trends, engagement and valorisation activities will depend increasingly on multidisciplinary programmes and related support infrastructure. The chapter explores how this has been taken up in the Netherlands. It reports a wide range of value creation activities across the higher education system in the Netherlands resulting in a rich portfolio of processes, outcomes and impacts. The chapter argues for a greater involvement of staff and students in the valorisation agenda and increased emphasis on measuring the valorisation phenomenon and impacts in order to embed valorisation further within the higher education system.



Value creation from scientific knowledge is a very important phenomenon globally. It has been driven, in part, by the trends of reduced expenditure and productivity of basic research within industrial corporations in industries such as pharmaceuticals (Munir, 2012; PhRMA, 2015), combined with increasing attention from enterprises to exploiting the energy and creativity of university-based research and innovation through industrial partnerships (e.g. General Electric, 2016). At the same time, in the United States at least, public funding for research at universities has levelled off (AAAS, 2016), putting more pressure on higher education institutions (HEIs) to raise research funding through corporate partnerships and other value creation activities.

Creating value from knowledge has become one of the core functions of higher education in the Netherlands. The definition that has been adopted in the Netherlands from 2009 onwards is that “value creation is the process of creating value from knowledge by making knowledge suitable and/or available for economic and/or societal use and translating that knowledge it into competitive products, services, processes and entrepreneurial activity” (VSNU, 2013). The reference to “competitive” was subsequently removed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in order to underline that value creation is a process and not a product, that value creation activities aim at making knowledge suitable and available for use in and by society and not just in business, and that its impacts can go well beyond economic aspects into generating societal and cultural value. Hence, valorisation encompasses all disciplines and takes many forms depending upon the scientific domain in question as well as on the counterparts and recipients. It also includes different ways of communicating research and research results in the media, expositions, community research, etc. In terms of support structures and dedicated education activities, entrepreneurship support can be considered the most developed part of valorisation.

A number of government measures can support value creation activities, including support of applied research, building innovation infrastructure, creating networks to foster knowledge exchange, and providing training, finance and incubation for entrepreneurship (see Chapter 1). An important innovation in the Netherlands in this respect has been the establishment of “City Deals” (Kennis maken), which involve partnership between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the governments of cities with one or more HEIs. The aim is to bundle knowledge to effectively tackle city development challenges, identify and act upon new opportunities, and provide an “enriched learning environment” for students.

HEIs also play a crucial role in the Netherlands as players in regional entrepreneurial ecosystems, through their knowledge exchange activities and their education and skills development. To strengthen this role, HEI leaders should work to deepen their understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystems in which they are embedded. This may require new ways of interacting with students, the business community and civil society, blurring bureaucratic boundaries, as will be discussed later in this chapter.

Analysis and findings

Collaborations that cut across scientific domains have strong knowledge exchange potential

The most innovative knowledge exchange outcomes are those that cross knowledge and organisational boundaries. Interdisciplinarity is essential to the creation of new knowledge; strategy, planning, governance and leadership are critical to the development of an institutional environment that is conducive to interdisciplinary activities. However, HEIs often have small budgets for transdisciplinary work, and the incentives to conduct related translational research are even less apparent in the way departments and entire HEIs are funded or staff members are rewarded (LERU, 2016).

In the Netherlands, several research universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS) are on the way to establishing interdisciplinarity as a core principle in their education, research and value creation. This includes identifying and supporting research areas where interdisciplinary collaboration is likely to create new knowledge. The level of collaboration and knowledge exchange is very high when specific resources are dedicated to interdisciplinary and joint research. This suggests the importance of shared research facilities rather than department or university centric facilities. There are natural incentives to build department level research units, but less so for shared facilities.

One learning model for how to convene the start of such new interdisciplinary collaborations is that of so called “sandpits”, which bring together researchers in different disciplines in order to build collaborative projects and proposals (Box 5.1). Sandpits have been supported since 2004 in the UK by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the main government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences. Sandpits and other innovative tools to stimulate collaboration and identify new niche areas for collaborative research can also be used to develop interdisciplinary education, also spanning across different HEIs (see Chapter 4).

Box 5.1. Sandpits to enhance collaboration across disciplines

Sandpits are residential interactive workshops over five days. They have a highly multidisciplinary mix of 20-30 participants, some active researchers and others potential users of research outcomes, to drive lateral thinking and radical approaches to address research challenges. Sandpits are intensive discussion forums where free thinking is encouraged to delve into the problems on the agenda to uncover innovative solutions.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the United Kingdom has been working with sandpits since 2004 as part of their IDEAS Factory. Sandpits often have a rich diversity bringing together physical scientists, engineers, designers, social scientists, psychologists and healthcare specialists. Each sandpit is led by a director, who defines the topic and facilitates discussions at the event. A group of stakeholders and subject experts facilitate the process as mentors. The EPSRC invests around GBP 740 million per annum in universities in a broad range of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Participants are selected for each sandpit according to their skills and expertise.

The sandpit process can be broken down into five output-driven phases:

  1. Defining the scope of the issue

  2. Agreeing a common language and terminology amongst diverse backgrounds and disciplines

  3. Sharing various perspectives on the issue

  4. Using creative and innovative thinking techniques in break-out sessions to focus on a problem

  5. Turning Sandpit outputs into a research project

Sandpits are intensive events and for the well-being of participants, venues offer relaxation opportunities, and the timetable includes informal networking activities as a break from detailed technical discussions. Due to group dynamics and continual evaluation it is not possible to “dip in and out” of the process. Participants must stay for the whole duration of the event.

Source: OECD/EU (2017), based on the EPSRC website.

It is very common for HEIs in the Netherlands to collaborate with multinational corporations (MNCs). In the US, MNC collaboration as a source of research funding and route to value creation is now a routine part of an HEI’s strategy to boost research funding and value creation (e.g. Bayer’s collaboration with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Given the resources afforded by and interests of corporations to fund commercialisable research, and the increasing momentum among corporate labs to outsource applied research, there appear to be opportunities for greater knowledge exchange with MNCs in the Netherlands. However, for these efforts to have meaningful impact, the HEI leadership should take a key role in proposing and managing collaborations that cut across the scientific domains of the HEI.

Boosting knowledge exchange and value creation in the arts, humanities and social sciences

While valorisation in terms of science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM) is quite well developed, both internationally and in the Netherlands, the term as it is applied to arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS), and specifically the arts and humanities, is recognised as being a challenge to address (Benneworth et al., 2016; Hazelkorn et al., 2013). One way in which this is being addressed is by looking at existing scholarly activities and behaviours which can be understood in terms of valorisation, as well as entrepreneurship and innovation as these concepts can be more broadly understood. Value creation activities in the arts and humanities are new, or they happen under a different label (Benneworth et al., 2016; Hazelkorn et al., 2013).

An interesting example of value creation in the arts is underway at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) with the development of a taxonomy of arts and humanities value creation practices in recent years. Part of the reasoning behind this was that managers and administrators were hearing about value creation activities second-hand, and it seemed as if researchers in the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) were getting involved in value creation “accidentally”.

A further effort to build capacity for such activities was through the foundation of the “ASCH Valorisation Award”, awarded annually to a member or members of the UvA’s School of Culture and History. This award recognises an individual or team’s ability to reach new audiences, and also their lasting impact on the public. The award is accompanied by a prize of EUR 250. The 2015-16 award had nominations across a number of areas, including students’ oral history projects on working-class neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, teaching modules for secondary education, contributions to a major exhibition on the Battle of Waterloo, a blog about the timeliness of the Middle Ages, and contributions to important debates on slavery. The unanimously agreed winner was Franz Grijzenhout, who discovered the location of a Vermeer painting in Delft (University of Amsterdam, 2016). This was an excellent example of valorisation in AHSS as it demonstrated how meticulous archival research can lead to new insights and publications, appealing to a wide audience beyond academia.

Another example is the “Venture Lab Humanities” at Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship (ACE) Venture Lab (Venture Lab Humanities, 2017). This pilot is aimed at students and alumni from the Faculty of Humanities, who may have ideas to start their own business. ACE Venture Lab has been supporting students and alumni from other faculties with science- and technology-based startups over the previous three years, and the Venture Lab Humanities seeks to extend similar support to humanities students and alumni from their network of coaches and mentors.

Also, the integration of valorisation in the education of PhDs is a good way of broadening the range of activities and mobilising young researchers. Valorisation is not viewed just in terms of outputs and products, but in terms of structures and processes. As such, as well as recognising how valorisation can be seen in existing research activities, valorisation is built in to the development of early career researchers. This younger generation is increasingly aware of the need for valorisation, as the majority of them will not secure positions in academia. Valorisation for them is thus an especially important skill set that helps them to better translate their research expertise into different contexts.

The Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR) has developed a valorisation/knowledge utilisation workshop for PhD candidates in the humanities (University of Amsterdam, 2017). This course is designed to provide participants with an insight into how their research (and academic knowledge more broadly) in the humanities can be applied for societal and/or economic utilisation. Understanding the increasingly varied number of fields that PhD students in AHSS are working in, this workshop is designed to give participants expertise in writing grant applications that require details relating to valorisation, but also serves as preparation for job interviews and research activities outside academia.

Design and fashion have great value creation potential. An example is the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI). It was founded in 1992 following the merger of two other institutes that had existed since the 1950s, and is now a part of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Innovation and entrepreneurship are integral parts of the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Entrepreneurial learning includes virtual presentations of collections, students’ use of micro-blogging platforms such as Pinterest and Tumblr, six‐month work placements and internships with fabric companies, and use of 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies and methodologies. AMFI aims to create a skill and knowledge resource that helps build relationships with the fashion and manufacturing industry.

In terms of teaching and learning, given that fashion education takes place in a workshop and studio setting, contact time between staff and students is at a premium. With over 1 000 students and more than 100 staff (many on fractional/part-time appointments), using technology in innovative ways is one way to maximise the most efficient use of time for both students and staff. One means of doing this has been through the use of QR codes on various machines in the workshops (including 3D printers). Students can scan these QR codes with their smartphones, which takes them to videos that explain how to use the equipment. This is one way to make tacit knowledge explicit and concrete, and saves instructors time in terms of not having to explain techniques or technical features and settings multiple times.

One notable example of AMFI’s integration of value creation and entrepreneurship into its programmes is the MA in Fashion Enterprise Creation (AMFI, 2017). This course is designed to prepare its graduates for careers as fashion entrepreneurs by providing them with the technical as well as organisational and business skillsets, through offerings such as “Finance for Fashion”, and “Innovation Management”. This course, which is two years, full-time, operates in collaboration with London College of Fashion, and provides a collaborative module where students network with industry through a two-week exchange. In addition, at the very start of this master’s of arts programme, students register a business as a requirement of the course (allowing their course fees to be tax-deductible).

Valorisation has strengthened the research agenda in the universities of applied sciences (UAS)

Traditionally, UAS in the Netherlands are closely connected to enterprises (including for mandatory student internships, sponsored research, problem-based learning) and actively exchange knowledge and collaborate on value creation with them. The Valorisation Programme, introduced by the Dutch government in 2010, resulted in the establishment of regional consortia across the country, each grouped around one or more HEIs and led by a research university. For the UAS, the emphasis on valorisation has brought new attention and specific support to their applied research activities and triggered an important dialogue between the different parts of the Dutch higher education sector.

An example is the Sustainable Electrical Energy Centre of Expertise (SEECE) at the Arnhem and Nijmegen University of Applied Sciences (HAN). SEECE is organised as a public-private partnership which engages entrepreneurs, scientists, local and national government, academic researchers, and students. Sustainable energy is one the university’s institutional pillars, connecting directly with the Dutch government’s focus on energy as one of its top sectors, based on the recognition that the energy transition away from fossil fuels requires capacity-building in the realm of sustainable alternatives. SEECE connects HAN with national and regional government, as well as with over 40 external companies and institutes, combining industry expertise with innovation and research.

Companies partner with HAN to receive funding through the Top Sectors programme (see Chapter 1), on the understanding that HAN as a university of applied sciences does not do fundamental research, but rather focuses on implementing research and strengthening links with industry. As such, SEECE i) uses the new knowledge produced by the universities, ii) finds innovative ways to apply it, which iii) uses the expertise of companies to do so, and iv) involves students in the process. These academia-industry connections are very significant for renewable energy as the issues with the technology in this area relate less to sustainability per se, but more to reliability and affordability.

SEECE also involves students in the process of bringing research and technology out from the university into the marketplace. Through its courses at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, as well as shorter courses, SEECE educates students to be qualified technicians working in the energy sector. SEECE trained students replace those retiring, support the growth of jobs in the sector and fill skills gaps. Graduates from SEECE courses are at an advantage through their involvement in research activities during their studies, or time spent working in companies related to the energy sector in certain courses. By developing courses in co-operation with energy companies, SEECE combines human capital development with innovation, maintaining a feedback loop ensuring that students are acquiring industry relevant skills.

Another advantage of the approach taken by SEECE is that the emphasis on sustainability has introduced an ethical focus to engineering, which might not otherwise be apparent to young people considering studies in this field. As a result, SEECE attracts a new generation of students interested in electrical engineering by focusing on the social, as well as technical, challenges related to the energy transition. One example is the SOPRA project (Sustainable Off-grid Power Station for Rural Applications), which connected various sustainable energy sources to a storage system to create a sustainable power plant. The sustainable energy sources in this project included 30kW solar panels, a 30kW wind power simulator and a biodiesel generator. Climate data and experimental measurements were used to assess how many households such autonomous energy grids would be able to supply with electricity. The SOPRA project is an example of SEECE combining environmental and social impact with engineering research and education, connecting engineering challenges with the global social challenge of supplying reliable energy in rural areas in countries without electricity.

HEI leadership support is a key determinant for effective value creation

All HEIs visited for this review generally acknowledged the need to deepen and widen staff involvement in value creation and engagement beyond top-professor/researcher levels, and to develop and strengthen a layer of people to translate research into impact, in addition to the existing technology transfer offices.

In moving forward on this, it seems that key enablers are: i) HEI leadership, who are willing to rewrite the rules for performance assessment, beyond the usual publications in top peer reviewed journals, ii) local policy makers with long term vision willing to take risks, iii) HEI administrators focused on results rather than procedures and red tape, and iv) academic staff undertaking valorisation, even if such activities do not necessarily result in new publications.

This is illustrated with the case example of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU), a leading research university in the United States. JHU has nine divisions (Engineering, Nursing, Medicine, Business, Arts and Sciences, International Affairs, Public Health, Education, and Music) and with the Applied Physics Laboratory, has been the leader in research spending in the US (National Science Foundation, 2016). 36 individuals, past and present, affiliated with JSU have won the Nobel Prize. Individual divisions, for example, the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Carey Business School, always have engaged global partners (JHU, 2017a), and Carey Business School Global MBA students have, for example, participated in more than 70 Innovation for Humanity projects worldwide (JHU, 2017b). More recently, the aim is to impact national policy through data-driven approaches to solve large public health problems (JHU, 2017c) and provide better health care for marginalised local communities.

Five years ago, the university leadership (president, provost and deans) realised that for the institution to take impact to the next level, they have to collaboratively engage their research communities to tackle the big societal problems that remain stubbornly unsolved. Such an undertaking required strategically directed multidisciplinary research and education. This conversation resulted in an initiative called “Rising to the Challenge”, underpinned by a USD 5 billion funding to support research and education:

  • 21st Century Cities: to use data-driven methods, academic staff, students, and city planners to define problems, develop on-the-ground solutions, measure results, and engage in urban revitalisation.

  • Global Health: to develop and implement interventions for non-communicable diseases, injuries, infectious diseases, food and food security, and the health of women and children with academic staff and students from public health, medicine, nursing, engineering, economics, and public policy.

  • Precision Medicine: to customise treatment for the individual patient, reduce unnecessary testing, recommend behavioural changes, and improve preventive measures by uniting physicians, scientists, engineers, and information experts to interrogate big data for clinical, epigenomic, phenotypic, and geographic information.

  • Learning: to optimise how we learn, from the molecular to the individual person to the classroom, including new human-machine technologies, by connecting neuroscientists, computer scientists, psychologists, and education experts.

These initiatives are helmed by individual academic staff, research centres, and specially appointed staff with dual tenure appointments in more than one division, called “Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships”, of which 50 were endowed. The core mission of the professors and others involved in these multidisciplinary research initiatives is to conduct basic research and to translate it (valorise) for use by policymakers, health care providers, companies, government departments, and entrepreneurs. Each of these initiatives is support by an advisory board composed of leaders and citizens from industry, non-profit organisations, advocacy and civic organisations, users and clients, the scientific community, and local government.

Involving students in knowledge exchange and value creation activities

How many people in the community feel that they can connect with what is going on inside the walls of our third level institutions? What happens to all these projects that students pursue in order to obtain their degrees and advance their careers? Do they gather dust in the archives never to be looked at again? Does the research really matter to anyone else except the student?

The involvement of students and student associations in the valorisation agenda appears to be lower than in entrepreneurship support, where students play a central role in several Dutch HEIs. More and better mechanisms are needed to allow researchers and students to collaborate in valorisation activities, for example with valorisation-related seminar papers or collaboration on graduation theses. The emerging interdisciplinary research platforms (see Chapter 4) offer opportunities for this.

Also, the “City Deals” (Kennis Maken) offer an excellent starting point to enhance the participation of students in knowledge exchange activities (Box 5.2). However, although this encourages the creation of new partnerships, there is so far no specific funding available for the work of the partnerships. The Comenius grants (see Chapter 4) have a specific call for topics on “connection with society”. This could be used to pilot initiatives even if it concerns only a small proportion of the grants and the call is open to a broad spectrum of researchers.

Box 5.2. City Deals – Partnerships to Innovate

The foundation of the City Deals lies in the European and national “Agenda Stad” (Urban Agenda). Cities, the government and societal partners have committed themselves to support (economic) growth, quality of life and innovation in the Dutch city-networks. City Deals are the means to reach the goal of “Agenda Stad”.

Topics and partners are diverse, for example different partners in the municipalities of Zaanstad, Leeuwarden, Enschede, Utrecht, and Eindhoven are working on the “inclusive city” (focus on the social domain), while different municipalities in The Hague and Rotterdam developed a “Roadmap Next Economy” and are seeking answers to IT and renewable energy challenges.

In 2009, a network of “knowledge cities” (Netwerk Kennisssteden) was formed by cities with a university: Amsterdam, Delft, Eindhoven, Enschede, Groningen, Leiden, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Rotterdam, Tilburg, Utrecht, and Wageningen. The HEI umbrella organisations (VSNU and VH) and the organisation for student housing (Kences) are also members of the network. In February 2017, the network members, the participating municipalities, the HEI’s, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs signed the City Deal “Kennis Maken”. The goal of this specific City Deal is to stimulate the co‐operation between HEI’s, municipalities and other partners in solving regional social issues/challenges through research and education.

Source: Interviews during and after the study visits in June and July 2017.

It is important that students participating in value creation activities receive recognition of the competencies acquired (e.g., ECTS, diploma supplements). Examples of initiatives that are doing this are CityLab at the Carey Business School, CARL at the University College Cork in Ireland, and two bachelor degree programmes at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

CityLab is a social enterprise laboratory at the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University that partners students with existing economic and community development projects. One project involved turning a 133-year-old brick building into apartments and retail space. The students created a business plan for a café in the building and suggested hiring Jonestown residents and using some of the café’s profits to help seed start-ups by local (at-risk) youth, some of which could come out of a small incubator space the developer was considering for the building (Lanahan, 2014).

CARL is the Community-Academic Research Links initiative at the University College Cork in Ireland (OECD-EC, 2017). Since 2010, important pieces of research have been produced and implemented, some of which have also had an impact on national policy. CARL researchers work with not-for-profit voluntary and community organisations on a range of research topics. Selected research projects are intended to result in practical applications. For example, one CARL project looked at respite services for people with learning difficulties in County Clare. The research examined an innovative and cost-efficient type of respite called “Home Share” where host-families welcome children and adults with disabilities into their own homes as an alternative or complementary to more institutional services. The students presented their findings and discussed their recommendations at two national conferences, and the Health Service Executive Service, which provides public health and social care services in Ireland, referred to this research in their recent report. Home Share Clare was successful in leveraging funding of EUR 30 000 for the continuation of the project and was featured on national television.

The Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences has embarked on a strategy to make its programmes as practical and relevant as possible. Two recently developed BA programmes are Marketing & Social Business and Creative Marketing & Sales. These programmes have been developed with a view to students being exposed to valorisation activities from start to finish within the programme. The course content places problem-based learning at the core of the curriculum and students are exposed to real world problems throughout by working on live projects for businesses and organisations at all stages within the programmes. Further, the programmes also expose students to an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, and direct collaboration with regional organisations and businesses.

There may be merit in reviewing programme accreditation criteria in light of particular needs of the valorisation aims of certain study programmes. For example, education programmes that are embedded in the valorisation agenda may need specific expertise that may require the involvement of teaching staff who do not have a PhD but who do have extensive exposure to business, industry or society. Their participation should not be restricted by existing programme accreditation requirements.

The role of early career researchers in valorisation

There is further scope to strengthen the implementation of initiatives for knowledge exchange and valorisation in higher education by engaging early-career researchers. While specific funding calls for valorisation may be relevant for established researchers, they may not have the transformative potential that is hoped for, as they are a supplement to the activities these established researchers are already engaged with. An alternative is to use early career researchers (ECRs) as an asset in this process.

The professional development and employment trends for PhDs, postdocs, and other ECRs means that today an ever-increasing number are entering the non-academic workforce. Of structural necessity, ECRs are more mobile than their more senior/established research colleagues. ECRs are already part of informal knowledge exchange networks, but formalising these networks would provide a more established route than policy makers can currently rely on in terms of observing the productivity of such relationships, as well as a platform for future initiatives.

The mobility of ECRs within networks of innovation can be looked at in various ways. Within academia this mobility is as they proceed from PhD study in one institution, to postdoctoral positions and short-term contracts in other institutions. Outside academia, this means moving from PhD and postdoctoral work in higher education into industry and the workforce. Institutional rules and incentives should recognise and reflect that such mobility exists and has the potential to circulate ideas and knowledge more quickly than would otherwise be the case.

Stimulating academic research on the phenomenon of valorisation

The wide range of valorisation activities across the entire Dutch higher education sector has resulted in a rich portfolio of processes, outcomes and impacts. This is being monitored by HEIs and government. In this effort it is important to track the impact of such activities on staff and students beyond the boundaries of the HEI. The benefits of knowledge exchange between the HEI and the wider world are varied and depend on the context, but can be assessed qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

So far, the emphasis has been on documenting the result of valorisation activities. In going forward, more emphasis is needed on understanding the valorisation phenomenon itself. A national funding programme could be established to incentivise research across the HEI sector into processes, activities, results and impacts of valorisation activities. This would provide very valuable lessons for future policy making in the Netherlands and beyond, particularly in view of the current efforts in different European countries to establish a common set of valorisation indicators.

In order to foster knowledge creation on valorisation as a phenomenon, there is a need for the systematic collection and curation of data on all aspects of the valorisation activities of HEIs. In particular, it is important to track the impact of such activities on academic staff and students beyond the boundaries of the HEI. The benefits of knowledge exchange between the HEI and the wider world are varied and depend on the context, but can be assessed qualitatively as well as quantitatively. At the same time, it is not sufficient to simply collect data without a context or theoretical framework. Data collection is only meaningful if it is grounded in a programme of systematic academic research on the topic. Nowadays, the state of the art in valorisation (or entrepreneurship and innovation) centres is to incorporate academic research on the phenomenon itself. In large part, this is because valorisation takes many forms and is dependent on the scientific domain in question. Therefore, the discovery and societal application process of, say an artistic expression, is fundamentally different at the neural level, than a biotarget for lymphoma. Not all HEIs need to be engaged in this type of high-level research on valorisation as a phenomenon, but funding should be made specifically available for this type of focused research effort, perhaps in collaboration with EU initiatives to improve regional competitiveness.

HEIs in Ireland are making progress in demonstrating the impact of valorisation by means of capturing the economic and societal value of their education, research and engagement/knowledge exchange functions. An example is the recently published report of Dublin City University in which the qualitative value of civic engagement is translated into quantitative metrics (Box 5.3).

Box 5.3. Dublin City University: how to measure value of engagement

In the report “Capturing the Economic and Social Value of Higher Education”, the Dublin City University presents some key results of its pilot study aimed at measuring the social and economic impact of the university. In that study, a holistic approach was applied to capturing the broader economic and social value generated by the university’s engagement activities. Three different approaches were used to come to a valuation of DCU community activities. One, a market-equivalent fee was used to impute a value for certain community-oriented course programmes by reviewing a range of courses including further education colleges which offer similar types of coaching and training activity. The official “full economic price” for this level of course is still an administered rather than a “market price”, however it arguably reflects the minimum economic value which is delivered. Second, for voluntary work the “opportunity cost” of an hour of volunteer delivery time at minimum wage rates was applied. Third, the economic value of other voluntary activities delivered was calculated using participant time-cost, with a rate derived from official sources and also used by the Irish Government for evaluation of costs.

A social weighting is applied to the volunteer time, which reflects the great social value being delivered, for example for students from lower income “priority groups”, and which yields a socially modified economic value of all activities.

Source: Dublin City University (2014).


Given future economic and societal trends, knowledge exchange and value creation through HEIs will depend increasingly on multidisciplinary research and engagement programmes that bring together STEM and AHSS, and related knowledge exchange support infrastructure. This can be encouraged at a national level through, for example, specific competitive funding calls or support infrastructure development programmes. Students and early-career researchers can also play an important role in knowledge exchange. It is important, in particular, to create opportunities for young researchers to get involved in projects with industry at early stages of their academic career. Allied to the need to embed valorisation further within the higher education system is the need to be able to measure the impact of valorisation activities at the national and HEI levels. Valorisation, in the context of knowledge exchange and collaboration, refers to more than just the economic value of scientific discovery. Valorisation should also be defined in terms of the creation of new art forms or creative expressions, and community wellbeing. However, whether we are discussing economic, psychosocial or community wellbeing, a proper assessment of the impact of scientific knowledge can only be achieved if we can measure the outcomes.


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