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Raising the quality of Coventry University's 2014 REF submission, resulting in a 70% increase in funding

The brief

Coventry University was keen to improve its showing in the REF 2014 in order to drive additional research funding and bolster institutional reputation. The University was mindful of the requirement to demonstrate impact in its REF submission and sought communications support to achieve this.

Our response

We developed and implemented a wide-ranging stakeholder engagement strategy with the aim of producing an evidence base of tangible impacts.

We carried out a review of current research projects and produced a “top ten” of those we considered to have the greatest potential for public engagement.

Examples included:

  • Innovative smart meters for social housing which tackled fuel poverty, increased fuel efficiency and reduced environmental impact
  • New cardboard-based building materials that replaced asbestos boards in Iran, saving thousands of construction workers’ lives a year and offering an environmentally-friendly building option for the rest of the world
  • Nano-technology capable of being injected into bed sheets, pillows and towels in NHS and private hospitals to stop the spread of MRSA

We carried out a stakeholder mapping exercise to determine potential audiences for each research area.  Each stakeholder group was approached with a pithy summary of each project and its potential applications, inviting face-to-face meetings with the lead academic. Stakeholders ranged from regional MPs to media, business leaders, political advisors, senior civil servants and policymakers, professional associations and sector bodies.

The outcome

Significant interest was attracted from the above stakeholder groups who engaged with the projects in a range of ways.   A busy schedule of face-to-face meetings was arranged which gave academics a platform to discuss their findings and the potential benefits with key figures from industry, healthcare, the media and the political arena.  These discussions not only served as evidence of impact in themselves for the REF submission,  they also formed the basis for long-lasting professional partnerships to bring innovative new products to market and to influence public policy. 

A range of media activity was organised to support the programme, resulting in coverage that included a backpage exclusive in the Daily Express which examined the impact of social media on the rise of the Champions League, and a regular guest, panel slot on Sky TV for one of Coventry’s leading sports’ marketing academics.

In the REF 2014, 92% of Coventry University’s research was rated world-leading, internationally excellent or recognised internationally, compared with 62% in RAE 2008.

As a result, Coventry University was granted over £3.2 million by HEFCE for 2015/16 to fund its research, an increase of almost 70% over the previous year – one of the highest funding increases amongst Midlands universities.

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