The 2015 conference organised the breakout sessions into themes.

2015's themes were:

The Civic University

Universities have always played an important role in local economies. As well as delivering education and research that shapes both lives and society, they employ large numbers of people and support significant amounts of expenditure with local businesses. Over several years there have been a number of useful reports looking at university-business interaction and HEIF has played a crucial role in helping universities better engage with business and pump-priming sustainable business relationships. However, with the introduction of Local Enterprise Partnerships, combined authorities and proposed ‘devolution deals’, universities are beginning to re-think the relationships they have with institutional partners and stakeholders, as more emphasis is placed upon local action, based upon local economic needs and priorities.
Whether we are considered as ‘anchor institutions’ or provide ‘university enterprise zones’, this theme will explore how universities are meeting both the challenges of supporting economic growth through their interaction with businesses, and how they can inform and shape local priorities so that that they play the fullest role in the changing economic and political landscape.

Developing Social Enterprises
Thinking and acting more socially can be challenging in many business and knowledge exchange settings even when there is a shared drive to help make the world a better place. Are social enterprises the answer? For academic spin-outs is there an advantage to having a business structure that aligns to the social enterprise model? Can a university be more socially responsible by setting up trading arms which operate as social enterprises? This session will explore social enterprise from the knowledge exchange professional's perspective. It will introduce the Social Enterprise Mark, the only international certification for genuine social enterprises, and show how universities are embracing the social enterprise model in their enterprise and knowledge exchange activities.

With contributions from:
Lucy Findlay, Managing Director, Social Enterprise Mark

Supporting SME Engagement and Growth
With the development of new business support structures and with the 2014-2020 EU Structural Investment Programme imminent,  this panel discussion will explore how universities are creating new methods of engaging with SMEs and playing an increasingly important role in supporting SME innovation and growth.

With contributions from:
Sarah Duckering, University of Portsmouth (Solent Growth Hub)
Liam Sutton, University of Bradford (University Enterprise Zones)
Lynn Oxborrow, Nottingham Trent University (Support SMEs through ERDF)


Universities in Devolved Local Economies
As the new Government seeks to devolve local decision making and funding to support job creation and business growth, this workshop will discuss how universities can influence and contribute to the emerging economic development landscape.

With contributions from:
Kevin Richardson, HEFCE
Ben Lucas, RSA



This theme will cover latest news and experience from AURIL members of the first calls to the ESIF funding programmes, hear from representatives of EU-wide innovation and knowledge transfer networks about the benefits and opportunities for universities to extend relationships with business and other KE practitioners across the EU, and look at some of the other funding sources such as Interreg and Erasmus that HEIs are tapping into to fund enterprise and exchange projects.

ESIF 2015
Continuing AURIL’s ongoing focus on promoting and sharing good practice on ESIF projects, strategy and policy, this will be an interactive session with AURIL members to hear and learn from their experiences of assembling projects and teams for the first round of ESIF calls earlier this year, featuring short presentations from projects leads in a  selection of universities who have been successful with their applications.

With contributions from:
Jemma Little, Anglia Ruskin University
Wendy Malem, Director of the Centre for Fashion Enterprise


EU Innovation Networks
In this session you will hear from representatives of increasingly important pan- EU networks and projects such as the Enterprise Europe Network, now co-funded by Innovate UIK, and the European Business Network/Business Innovation Centre network about how these initiatives support local innovation and growth, and the important role that university knowledge transfer and exchange play in them.

With contributions from:
David Golding, Innovate UK
Martin Longstaff, University of East London
Alan Kennedy, Pera Consulting


New EU Funding for Enterprise and Innovation
This session is a showcase of projects and funding sources such as new Interreg funds and Erasmus+, that are increasingly being used creatively by UK universities to establish new local business engagement and enterprise exchange programmes. The session will cover the benefits – and the challenges – of working with these funding sources.

With contributions from:
Ian Hill, National Contact Point for Interreg
Russell Yates, Manchester Metropolitan University


Business Engagement

To be effective at working at the interface between externals/business, Knowledge Exchange professionals need great skills, energy and wit. We also need the latest information about wider issues such as State Aid, understanding the current climate and thinking regarding topics such as ‘gateways’ and become ever more skilful at Key Account Management . This theme will seek to address these needs through case studies and discussion.

Business Gateways
Various reports, including Witty, have talked about business gateways. What are they? How do they work in a practical sense? What tools and techniques are used? How do you sift out the goal, whilst dealing with the rest? Is there are also some added value in running business gateways through regional funding?

With contibutions from:
Marc Fleetham, University of Wolverhampton
Mark Rushforth, Lancaster University
Joe Marshall, National Centre for Universities and Business


Dealing Effectively with State Aid in Knowledge Exchange and Innovation
State Aid is a fairly innocuous sounding term, which belies its importance and the potential consequences for those who ignore its implications. State Aid doesn’t represent a glittering, enticing opportunity for universities and it certainly isn’t the sort of topic that animates and enthuses researchers, administrative staff and Vice-Chancellors. However, an understanding of the basic principles can improve decision making by academics and senior managers who are active in the innovation space. Institutions run the risk of unwittingly falling foul of State Aid legislation if their interactions with businesses are carried out without due regard to its restrictions and, conversely, a lack of awareness of what is permissible under this legislation might result in universities being overly conservative or risk averse in their interactions with industry. This session will explore these issues and offer solutions, based on a new guidance document produced by AURIL and PraxisUnico.

With contributions from:
David Bembo, University of Cardiff


Key Account/Relationships
Key Account Management is well practiced outside of the HE sector, yet even so, many companies struggle with the same issues of who holds the emotional link to data and contacts. This session is about gaining tips about starting to implement aspects to managing corporate relationships and information on the tools and resources required.

With contributions from:
Jennifer Thompson, Durham University
Nik Pishavadia, Imperial College London


Impact through Knowledge Exchange

Impact was one of the big stories from last year's REF and is likely to become an even bigger part of REF2020. It is therefore essential for UK universities to ensure that REF Impact submissions meet the highest standards of the assessment criteria. This session will examine best practice of KE professionals in supporting impact within institutions with case studies and also a focus on the arts, humanities and social sciences. Looking forward, the KE Performance Framework will be presented and how this will potentially effect institutions.

Impact: A KE Professional Perspective
This session will focus on how the KE practitioners developed impact case studies for the REF 2014. They will reflect on their experiences and challenges in identifying, preparing and writing Impact Case Studies

With contributions from:
Tim Brundle, Ulster University
Helen Lewis, University of East Anglia


Impact in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

This session will focus on best practice in developing impact in the humanities, arts and social sciences.  The session will include input from ESRC and AHRC on how impact can be supported.    

With contributions from:
Rob Keegan, AHRC
Andrew Wray, University of Bristol


KE Performance Framework

In this session the current work undertaken by HEFCE on the KE Performance Framework will be presented. The potential implications of the framework will be discussed and there will be opportunities for delegates to feed back on the proposals

With contributions from:
Rachel Tyrrell, HEFCE