European Commission - Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

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Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network (KEEN)

Title of measure
Full title in national language:
Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network (KEEN)
2012 to 2016
Policy objectives Plus
2.1. R&D cooperation projects between academy and industry
2.3. Knowledge transfer structures between academia and industry
2.4. Demonstration projects, proto-types and proofs of concepts
Presentation of the measure:

The Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network (KEEN) is a new business improvement programme, part-funded by ERDF, designed to help West Midlands based SME's increase their profitability and achieve growth through working with a regional university.

KEEN is available to SME's at pre-innovation level and so is the ideal opportunity to action 'that project' you have been hoping to develop for a while and so make it a reality.

The University of Wolverhampton is leading the Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Network (KEEN) which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) until July 2015.

What are the benefits for business?

 By working with a university the business will gain:

  • a graduate (known as an Affiliate) working full-time on a bespoke project within the business;
  • continuing support from a nominated university liaison officer;
  • ongoing mentoring and support from university experts for the Affiliate, ensuring that project objectives are met;
  • access to the university’s extensive resources, including facilities and expertise; 
  • access to an equipment and travel budget (worth on average £4,000 (€5,040).

How does KEEN work?

KEEN offers a level of flexibility to companies who are yet to realise their full potential. This is made possible through the transfer of knowledge into the business via a recent graduate who is recruited to work full-time on a growth project, developed in association with the university, for six to 24 months.

The university supports the company from application stage, during recruitment and for the lifetime of the project. Meetings are held at the start, mid-way point and at the end of the project with all parties, to ensure the project is on track and delivering results for the business.

How much will KEEN cost a company?

Average company cost is £18,673 (€23,520) per annum. There is flexibility within the Affiliate salary range, allowing the company to appoint at various points on a generous scale.

Budget, source and type of funding
National public funds
Regional public funds
EU Structural funds
Private funds
Form of funding provided
Policy learning
To what extent the measure can be considered as a success and worthy of policy learning?:
There has been a positive response by beneficiaries to the measure (e.g. over-subscribed in terms of requested versus available budget) but it is too early to judge results or impact
Evidence of outcomes based on evaluation and other evidence:

An evaluation has not yet been undertaken as the programme has just started. There is a video on how KEEN is making an impact on regional business: There is also a further indication of the benefits of the measure through the case studies available on the official website.

In addition, the main webpage gives several testimonials that suggest the measure really supported the developments in their respective fields as well as hands on experience.

The University of Wolverhampton has conducted research on the programme, including surveys and case studies with participants. They found that all three groups involved, companies, affiliates or graduate students and researchers benefitted from the programme. The companies benefitted from new knowledge being brought into the company, and the affiliates by gaining new skills and understanding small businesses. This is also reflected in the fact that 62% of affiliates had the opportunity or the wish to stay further in the company once the programme ended. Researchers gained by establishing collaborations with small businesses and finding input for teaching materials.

What are the most important “Do’s and Don’ts” that regional stakeholders should be aware of when launching a similar measure?:

The measure manages to reach out and support the developments in knowledge transfer and a there is several testimonials and case studies available.

The research by the University of Wolverhampton gives 15 recommendations in total, some important ones are:
All companies should clearly define their needs to achieve the most suitable project definition possible for hiring an affiliate.
Publicity materials should be developed, to demonstrate knowledge transfer possibilities for SMEs and to raise the profile of the programme.
The programme should have regular meetings and uniform documentation for all projects.

Would you recommend this measure as an example of regional good practice to policy-makers from other regions ?:
Organisation(s) responsible
Evaluation report(s)