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23 August 2019
Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake Part II: Creating a climate for Research Uptake Print
Thursday, 01 August 2013 00:00

Research Uptake (RU) and its management should be “business as usual” at the university. It is an activity that forms a natural part of the research process--in other words, routine. But how best to achieve this?

In the first of a series of six blogs about crucial factors in implementating Research Uptake Management (RUM), Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake, I identified five areas to “link research efforts with action”. These were:

  • Creating the climate for Research Uptake

  • Facilitating push factors

  • Exchange mechanisms

  • Facilitating pull factors

  • Evaluation efforts

This second blog in the six-part series focuses on factors to be considered when embarking on a drive to strengthen institutional capacity. It entails the process of creating and facilitating a climate for RU in the university. If researchers and research managers are to be motivated to take RU as a core element in their work, it is essential for top management to commit to driving activity at institutional level. It is also essential that university policies be aligned so that RU activity may be enabled, encouraged and rewarded. Visibility of RU activity depends very much on strong leadership from senior management.

During a consulting project to develop an innovation strategy framework for one of the top research universities in South Africa, I was asked to review strategies and mechanisms used by UK universities to encourage academics` engagement in supporting innovation activities. While these activities (termed “knowledge exchange”) focused mostly on supporting the transfer of technology-based knowledge and the employment of activities to directly support innovation at businesses, the lessons to be learned in terms of how these universities were driving staff engagement and culture change are useful for our purposes.

According to HEFCE, the most commonly used and effective mechanism to stimulate RU activity at universities in the UK is to reward people for their efforts. No surprises here--like anyone else, academics are motivated by recognition. Integrating the recognition of RU activity into policies for recruitment, assessment, reward and promotion structures within the university make this possible.

Mechanisms should also be put in place to ensure that awareness of RU exists. Marketing and raising awareness of RU internally proved to be commonly employed strategies at UK universities. These mechanisms are simple to implement. Holding competitions with prizes is another, economical way of getting RU on the agenda of academics.

Thirdly, it is important that academics are equipped with skills and that they are aware of exactly what is required to carry out effective RU.. Skills can be acquired at workshops, short courses, mentoring and training sessions. The DRUSSA postgraduate programme and the short courses in Research Uptake and Utilisation, presented by CREST, provide a springboard for the professionalisation of Research Uptake and Research Uptake Management (RUM).

It is important for the emerging field of RU and RUM to be professionalised and entrenched at universities. After all, it is in the interests of academics, too, to raise their profiles as researchers and to be more widely recognised as specialists in their fields.

List of activities to drive staff engagement, based on a review of UK universities (HEFCE, 2008)

  • Institutional support and internal collaboration

  • Leadership from senior management/visibility of RU at strategic level

  • Provision of support to academics by RU staff

  • Consultation with academics in defining projects

  • RU champions

  • Representation of academics on RU committees

  • Mentoring


  • Incorporation of Research Uptake (RU) into recruitment, assessment, reward and promotion structure

  • Incentive schemes (including time allowed, IPR and consultancy policies, etc.)

  • Buying out academic time/workload planning

  • Competitions/feasibility funds to incentivise ideas and engagement

  • Prizes and awards

Training and awareness

  • Workshops, continuing professional development (CPD), short courses, training sessions

  • Marketing, awareness raising (e.g. through publications, awards, networking events)

  • Sharing good/best practice

External contact and engagement

  • Formal identification of stakeholders and a stakeholder engagement strategy

  • Staff secondments and student placements

  • Involvement with external partners


  • Research Uptake audits (including skills and technology audits)

  • Sharing of success stories to build momentum


Dr Sara Grobbelaar is a senior researcher at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch



Zanele Mathe said on 2013-08-24 13:57:01:
Thank you for writing this article, I find it stimulating and informative. Already it has given me a chance to realise that there are so many activities that one can employ within the university in collaboration with all stakeholders in creating a climate for research uptake. With libraries interests and significant roles they play in open access, research uptake seems to be the best mechanism for advocacy on the role a university library can play in attaining institutitonal goals of Research Uptake. As a librarian, it will be very interesting and relevant to have RU on the agenda of librarins as well..... Thanka again.....(Zanele Mathe - CPUT)