This is the UK’s knowledge exchange partnership of the year

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The streets of Oxford.

By U2B Staff 

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Knowledge exchange knows no bounds.

KE activities bring great benefits to all stakeholders involved, from helping businesses open up additional revenue streams to providing academia opportunities to stay on top of industry trends and strengthen their academic profiles.

Most crucially, knowledge exchange partnerships help keep the wheels of industry and society turning.

The nature and scale of such collaborations between academia and industry are as plentiful as they are varied, covering a wide range of sectors.

And nowhere is this more true than in the UK.


At the Praxis Auril 2019 KE Awards last week, a partnership between Oxford University and the National Trust (NT) to protect UK heritage was named Knowledge Exchange (KE) Partnership of the year, recognised for its success in creating impact through mutually-beneficial collaboration. 

A year old, the NT Partnership was launched with the aim of connecting Oxford’s researchers with the inspiring places and collections under the care of NT, an independent charity and membership organisation for environmental and heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

With mutually beneficial knowledge exchange as its driving force, the partnership creates opportunities for interdisciplinary research, knowledge exchange, public engagement and training across a wide range of disciplines and career levels at both institutions.

New research by academics into NT’s places and collections are embedded into public-facing interpretation and programming. In return, university researchers get invaluable access to NT’s heritage assets as well as opportunities to learn from the charity’s staff and engage with its audiences. This creates further opportunity for research and discovery, adding to the growing wealth of knowledge within the heritage sector.

“Activities take place through a range of workstreams, including research placements and consultancy, conferences, workshops, public events, staff training, PhDs and student internships,” says an explainer on the winning partnership.

The collaboration was born out of the Trusted Source Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Oxford and NT which ran from 2016 to 2018.

Under that exchange, Oxford researchers and charity staff worked in collaboration with academia from other universities to build the “Trusted Source” for NT, an online knowledge bank of information on the UK’s history, culture and the natural environment.

The information is presented in web-optimised articles; they are short and easily understood, and put together with the aim of providing users with deeper insight into the stories behind every place and collection within NT’s care. Over 60 researchers from 10 institutions worked on the project that has been graded “Outstanding” by InnovateUK.

Hardwick Hall
Visitors look at the wooden drawers in the Muniment or Evidence Room at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. Source: National Trust Images/John Millar via PraxisAuril

Following initial funding for Trusted Source, Oxford and NT’s relationship has leveraged over £1.73 million to date.

Today about a year old, the partnership continues to open up fresh opportunities for collaboration in support of NT’s core ambition to educate and inspire its visitors and supporters on UK heritage.

The value and impact of such research are immeasurable considering the value and contribution of the heritage sector to the UK economy.

NT alone employs over 11,000 people and engages over 60,000 volunteers nationwide, according to figures presented by Pegram Harrison, Senior Fellow in Entrepreneurship at Oxford Said Business School at a 2017 conference.

As heritage drives tourism (a third of overseas and two-thirds of domestic tourists in the UK visit heritage sites), conservation is crucial. In 2016, the sector contributed over £20 billion to the GDP and generated over 386,000 jobs. Beyond tourism, the sector also has knock-on effects in other sectors; a heritage site can increase the value of a nearby property by as much as 30 percent.


The KE Awards are a new initiative of PraxisAuril, a professional association for KE practitioners. Sponsored by national funding agency UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the award is to celebrate the work of KE professionals in facilitating and enabling critical research that benefit both the economy and wider society.

“The KE Awards is an excellent platform to take stock and promote the excellent KE work already happening in the UK and internationally,” PraxisAuril CEO Maxine Ficarra, CEO of PraxisAuril said when announcing the award’s finalists.

“To echo the words from our Chair, Sean Fielding, on the recently raised R&D budget, ’new collaborations and new ventures don’t just happen because of the great ideas of our academics but because of a creative blend of teamwork, expertise and experience which, when it works well, is the best in the world’.

“These finalists are the very embodiment of what can be achieved, and they have conducted some of the best KE activity in the world.”