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Definitions: HE - Business and Community Interaction

The Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (HE-BCI) is the main vehicle for measuring the volume and direction of interactions between UK HE providers and business and the wider community. The survey collects information on the infrastructure, capacity and strategy of HE providers, and also numeric and financial data regarding third stream activity (that is, activities concerned with the generation, use, application and exploitation of knowledge and other HE provider capabilities outside academic environments, these being distinct from the core activities of teaching and research).

The HE-BCI Survey is mandatory for HE providers in England and Wales, excluding The University of Wales (central functions). The HE-BCI Survey was made mandatory for HE providers in Scotland in 2011/12 as a condition of receiving the Knowledge Transfer Grant.

HE-BCI data relates to the HE providers' financial year, i.e. 1 August to 31 July.

All financial values in the HE-BCI Survey are shown in units of £1,000 and where necessary rounded to the nearest £1,000.

In 2020/21, Part A of the record has been suspended following initial review of the HE-BCI data collection. The future re-introduction of Part A will be explored during the ongoing HE-BCI major review.

Each higher education provider is allocated two different unique identifiers:

Higher education provider identifier (INSTID) is the unique identifier allocated to a provider by HESA.

UK Provider Reference Number (UKPRN) is the unique identifier allocated to a provider by the UK Register of Learning Providers (UKRLP).

For a list of the HE provider mergers and changes from the 1994/95 academic year onwards see Provider mergers and changes.

The allocation of an HE provider to a geographical region is done by reference to the administrative centre of that HE provider. Regions in this context are the nine England Regions (formerly Government Office Region) and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There may be students registered at HE providers who are studying in regions other than that of the administrative centre of the HE provider.

HESA allocates HE providers to Regions as follows:

North East (NEAS), North West (NWES), Yorkshire and The Humber (YORH), East Midlands (EMID), West Midlands (WMID), East of England (EAST), London (LOND), South East (SEAS), South West (SWES), Scotland (SCOT), Wales (WALE) and Northern Ireland (NIRE).

Although The Open University teaches throughout the UK, its administrative centre is located in South East England, and except where shown separately is counted as a wholly English provider.

HESA provides higher education providers (HEPs) with the opportunity to make post-collection amendments to a dataset through the fixed database facility. The fixed database collection opens following the closure of the corresponding live data collection, and remains open for between 6 and 15 months, depending on the data stream; typically longer for the Student record and shorter for other collections. Onward use of information whilst it remains open (for example in HESA open data) will normally be based on the original data collected and not on any amended data submitted through the fixed database facility. Onward use of information after closure of a fixed database will usually be based on the fixed data. For further information about the changes please contact us via [email protected].

HE Business and Community Interactions part A

The HE-BCI Survey Part A questions and guidance is available from the HE-BCI Survey 2019/20 coding manual. The survey covers six broad areas: strategy; infrastructure; intellectual property; social, community, cultural; regeneration; education and continuing professional development (CPD). The definition of terms used within the six question and option groups is included below.

Economic development is defined as the development of economic wealth of regions for the well-being of their inhabitants, including both wealth creation and social development or quality of life for the community. The emphasis is on external impact (outside the HE provider), however such activities are also likely to support the development of teaching and research missions.

Graduate retention in local region also includes the retention of graduates who originate from elsewhere other than the region of the HE provider. (Regions are defined as the ONS Regions (former GORs) in England, and the activities carried out in Wales by the Welsh Government, in Northern Ireland by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and in Scotland by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise).

Supporting small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) includes support in the form of areas identified in Part B of the HE-BCI Survey (e.g. consultancy, equipment, services). SMEs are classified by the European Commission as enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding £35.5 million/EUR 50 million, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding £30.5 million/EUR 43 million. SMEs include micro, small and medium enterprises, and sole traders.

Support for community development may also be in the form of community regeneration.

Meeting national skills needs refers to UK skills needs, and not the national skills strategies of the devolved administrations which come under the umbrella of regional skills needs in the HE-BCI Survey. 
Commercialisation (e.g. spin-off activity/licensing) involves the creation of a company based on work from the HEP. Licensing is where an established (external) company acquires rights to use a University invention. A spin-off is a new company formed on the basis of a HE provider’s intellectual property (IP).

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) sectors relate to the 21 sections of the UK Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities 2007 (SIC 2007). Further information is available in the Office for National Statistics publication UK Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities 2007 (SIC 2007) (PDF).

Third stream is used to describe HE provider’s activities in economic regeneration, regional engagement, relations with industry, intellectual property, the exploitation of research outcomes and other matters related to the HE provider's Business and Community function.

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are employer-led organisations aimed at improving the skills and productivity of their sector's workforce. The industries covered by each SSC are strictly defined. Further information and definitions for each SSC can be obtained from the Sector Skills Council directory.

ONS Regions (former GORs) Regional economic strategies in England were carried out by Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), these ceased to exist as of 31 March 2012. There were no direct replacements for RDAs, with economic strategies and future development undertaken by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). Similar activities are carried out within the Welsh Government, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, and Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

'Region' refers to the areas covered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Regions (former GORs) for England.

‘Devolved Government region’ refers to the areas covered by the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Where HE providers stated that the area of greatest priority to their mission was locality, this is the city or town within which they are located. An area defined by the HE provider could include surrounding counties.

Incentives for staff to engage with the Business and Community function of the HE provider may include progression, as well as rewards or performance pay.

Staff employed in a dedicated Business and Community function refers to a full-time equivalent (employed either by the HEP or by companies wholly or partly owned by the HE provider), and working in a knowledge transfer office or similar where their time is attributed to engaging with commercial partners, engaging with public sector partners or engaging with social, community and cultural partners.

Subsidiary company refers to a company owned by the HE provider (rather than an outsourced function).

Exploitation company will usually be wholly or majority owned by the HE provider, operating on a commercial basis and returning revenue to the HE provider through gift aid or similar.

Internal department will include a team within the HE provider structure, with responsibility across the entire HE provider for legal and commercial aspects of knowledge exchange activity.

HE provider ownership over intellectual property (IP) includes copyrights, trademarks, design rights, trade secrets and patents for the protection of inventions.

Where staff as individuals are rewarded by the HE provider, financially or by other means for the IP that they generate other means may include increases in departmental research budget.

Support for spin-offs is based on HE provider generated IP, with or without HE provider ownership (as defined under HE-BCI Survey Part B, Table 4: Intellectual property).

Support for start-ups may be provided by the HE provider, or through a partner organisation such as the IP Group and Fusion IP.

On-campus/Other incubators are small office areas used as launch-pads for business ideas from students, staff and alumni, that provide a mentoring environment and easy access to facilities.

Science park accommodation includes high-specification, purpose built accommodation for start-ups or expanding companies, aimed at scientific research, technology, environmental, engineering, ICT and other knowledge sectors.

Seed corn investment (seed funding) refers to securities offerings, after proof-of-concept, used to launch a start-up enterprise.

Venture capital typically occurs after seed corn investment - as funding for the growth of an enterprise, and resulting in the owning of equity in the enterprise.

Staff days per year permitted to provide expertise and/or services for social and community groups, civic authorities, broadcast media and cultural events excludes dedicated Business and Community staff time.

The role of funding from regeneration programmes is based on the income returned in the HE-BCI Survey Part B, Table 3: Regeneration and development programmes.

Extra-mural courses are defined for this survey as non-credit-bearing courses.

Student business placements includes formal sandwich courses and short term placements.

HE Business and Community Interactions part B


This includes contract numbers and income associated with consultancy, that is advice and work crucially dependent on a high degree of intellectual input from the HE provider to the client (commercial or non-commercial) without the creation of new knowledge. Consultancy may be carried out either by academic staff or by members of staff who are not on academic contracts, such as senior university managers or administrative/support staff.

Consultancy contracts are further analysed by SMEs, other (non-SME) commercial businesses and non-commercial organisations, as defined under Contract research.

Facilities and equipment related services - organisations involved and income

This includes the use and income associated with the use of the HE provider's physical academic resources by external parties, and captures provision which can be uniquely provided by a HE provider. Examples may include aerospace company use of a HE provider's wind tunnel, or media company use of a digital media suite. It does not include simple trading activities such as commercial hire of conference facilities or academic conferences.

Facilities and equipment related services - organisations involved and income are further analysed by SMEs, other (non-SME) commercial businesses and non-commercial organisations, as defined under Contract research.

Courses for business and the community - Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses and Continuing Education (CE) (excluding pre-registration funded by the NHS or DfE/Teaching Regulation Agency (formerly NCTL))

This includes revenue generated by Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses, defined as a range of short and long training programmes for learners already in work who are undertaking the course for purposes of professional development, upskilling or workforce development.

CPD course revenue is further analysed by SMEs, other (non-SME) commercial businesses and non-commercial organisations.

CE and CPD course revenue is additionally analysed by CE and CPD for individuals which includes revenue from individuals that approach the HEP for CE and CPD to develop or enhance specific employability or professional skills. Individuals following a course at the request of their employer, or as a sole trader, are not included in CE and CPD for individuals. However, these are included as either CPD for SMEs, CPD for other (non-SME) commercial businesses or CPD for non-commercial organisations.

Total learner days of CPD/CE courses delivered includes contact time for lectures, tutorials, field study and small group study periods. Learner days are calculated using the assumption that one day is equivalent to one person receiving eight hours of teaching/training.

Regeneration funding is an important way for HE providers to invest intellectual assets in economic, physical and socially beneficial projects. The HE-BCI Survey counts regeneration as a proxy for direct economic and social impact. It is returned as income from the allocating public body.

The majority of regeneration funding comes from European sources, specifically ERDF income (European Regional Development Fund), ESF income (European Social Fund (ESF)), UK Government regeneration funds, UK shared prosperity fund and development agencies in the UK including Region programmes (ONS Regions (former GORs)). However, any funding that enhances or increases knowledge transfer between the HEP and business and community partners may be included, which if not categorised above, is included in other regeneration grants and income from local and regional bodies or other sources.

Intellectual property (IP) is a vital indicator for the value added by the HEP when interacting with a range of external partners. It is commonly in the form of licenses granted to private companies, allowing them to exploit an invention protected by a patent. IP includes patents, copyright, design registrations and trademarks.

Disclosures and patents filed by or on behalf of the HE provider

Number of disclosures includes the cumulative total of disclosures for the academic year.

Number of new patent applications filed in year includes all Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) applications.

Number of patents granted in year includes all individual patents and any individual national patents.

Cumulative patent portfolio includes the number of individual active and live patents. Active patents are those currently registered under licence to an external party. Live patents are those registered but yet to be licensed.

Number of patents filed by an external party naming the HEP as a co-applicant or staff as a named inventor is separate and additional to the cumulative number of patents as it reflects only those filed by an external partner.

The number of new patent applications filed in year, number of patents granted in year, cumulative patent portfolio figures and the number of patents filed by an external party naming the HEP as an inventor are sub-totalled in subtotal overseas to allow the calculation of UK and total international filings.

Licence numbers

This includes the number of all active licences granted from licence agreements, assignments, exercised option agreements, licences to spin-outs and income-generating Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs).

Licences granted are further analysed by non-software licences granted and software licences granted.

Total licence numbers are sub-totalled in subtotal overseas to allow the calculation of UK and total international numbers.

IP income

This includes the IP income from upfront or milestone fees, royalties and patents cost reimbursement.

IP income is further analysed by SMEs, other (non-SME) commercial businesses and non-commercial organisations, as defined under Contract research.

Subtotal IP income for the current year is sub-totalled in subtotal overseas to allow the calculation of UK and total international numbers.

Total IP revenues includes the gross income to the HEP, including the sale of shares in spin-offs, before disbursements to investors and other interested parties. As such this total differs from that recorded in the HESA Finance Statistics Return (FSR) Income analysed by source table (table 6b), sub-head 4f Income from intellectual property rights, for the same reporting period.

Total costs includes the cost of IP expenditure, such as salary and related costs of specialist IP staff, patent and other protection fees and legal expenses.

Spin-off activity

Spin-offs are companies set-up to exploit IP that has originated from within the HEP. All investment from the HEP and external partners are included but any investment from HEFCE (now OfS)/BIS (now BEIS) third stream funds (such as the Higher Education Innovation Fund in England or the Third Mission Fund in Wales) is excluded.

Spin-offs with some HEP ownership are companies set-up to exploit IP that has originated from within the HE provider, where the HE provider continues to have some ownership.

Formal spin-offs, not HEP-owned are companies set-up based on IP that has originated from within the HE provider but where the HE provider has released ownership (usually through the sale of shares and/or IP).

Staff start-ups are companies set-up by active (or recent) HE provider staff but not based on IP from the HE provider.

Student start-ups Prior to 2021/22, the Student start-ups field previously known as "Graduate start-ups" included all newly established businesses initiated by recent graduates (within two years) irrespective of intellectual property ownership, provided there was formal business/enterprise support from the Higher Education (HE) provider. From 2021/22, this field is now referred to as Student start-ups, as it represents all new businesses started by students currently registered at the reporting HE provider or who have exited the reporting HE provider with an award within the last two years. Again, this is regardless of where any IP resides, but only where there has been formal business/enterprise support from the HE provider.

Social enterprises include all legal organisational structures including charities and all business structures.  Enterprise/ventures which are established to deliver products or services which bring about positive social change are reported. i.e. organisations that rate their success on their social outcomes equally or more than their commercial outcomes (only registered companies should be reported).


Spin-off activity is further analysed by:

The number of new spin off companies for the reporting period; the number still active which have survived at least 3 years; the number of active firms (the 'number' and 'number still active which have survived at least 3 years' plus those companies which have been active between one and three years); estimated current employment of all active firms (FTE); estimated current turnover of all active firms (£000s) and estimated external investment received (£000s) (from external partners but excluding investment from HEFCE (now OfS)/BIS (now BEIS) third stream funds).

Note: estimates for estimated current employment of all active firms (FTE), estimated current turnover of all active firms (£000s), and estimated external investment received (£000s) (from external partners but excluding investment from HEFCE (now OfS)/BIS (now BEIS) third stream funds) are provided by HE providers where possible.

This includes social, community and cultural events intended for the external community, and is designed to measure the impact of activities where financial income is an inappropriate proxy for impact. Impact is returned in terms of attendees and academic staff time (days) (where one day is equal to 8 hours), for both free events and chargeable events. The events do not have to be funded by the HE provider. Events may be held either in the UK or overseas.

  • Public lectures includes attendee and academic staff time associated with lectures that are open to the public. It is possible that academic staff time as a proxy for impact may not be relevant for non-academic public lectures.
  • Performance arts (music, dance, drama, etc.) includes performances of music, dance, and the dramatic arts. Staff time is only for the event itself, and not time committed to the preparation of the event through supervising students during core studies.
  • Exhibitions (galleries, museums, etc.) includes permanent and temporary exhibitions held at museums and galleries owned by the reporting HE provider. Staff time is only for the event itself, and not time committed to the preparation of the event through supervising students during core studies.
  • Museum education includes all forms of museum education held at museums and galleries owned by the reporting HE provider, including lectures, workshops and children's clubs.
  • Other includes alternative public events held by the HE provider, which cannot be categorised above. This can include viewing and listening figures for television and radio programmes produced by HE providers, and downloads from their websites.