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Third stream as second mission

We supported projects to explore the potential of some higher education institutions (HEIs) to play a greater role in fostering productivity and economic growth through making third stream activity their second mission focus, after teaching. These projects informed development of policy on the formula for funding HEIs in HEIF round 4.


Quotec Ltd (a technology-exploitation consultancy) and Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex commissioned the following studies.

For more information, contact Jenni Chambers tel 0117 931 7041, e-mail

Experimental projects

The HEFCE strategic plan 2006-11 committed us to exploring the potential of targeted initiatives to address issues relating to the country's productivity and competitiveness. Our exploratory work on 'Third stream as second mission' formed part of this. We were particularly interested in exploring the contribution that such third-stream focused HEIs might make to bringing out latent demand in new users, and the activities they might undertake which could impact on productivity and growth of local and regional small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as public sector services.

To research this new area, we initiated some experimental projects which aimed to demonstrate the potential benefits to the economy of such third-stream focused HEIs. At the same time we contracted independent evaluators to analyse the projects and compile evidence for us at various points to feed into policy development.

We sent a circular letter to all HEIs in March 2006 to invite them to express an interest in taking part in one of the experimental projects. We selected five institutions to carry out the following projects between September 2006 and autumn 2008.

University of Brighton


ProfitNet applies the principles and processes of action learning to sector-based, facilitated networks of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a view to enhancing profits and social and environmental gain. It aims to provide concrete evidence on best practice for engagement and promotion of third stream activity as a core second stream focus.

University of Central England in Birmingham

Second mission critical project

UCE will explore a better, more sustainable way for less research intensive universities to engage with SMEs to raise their capacity to innovate. SMEs (plus public and voluntary sector organisations) will be supported by a multidisciplinary team from the university to develop a design-centred customer experience for their clients.

De Montfort University

Innovation Exploitation Vehicle for The East Midlands

De Montfort University (DMU) will create a comprehensive delivery vehicle for the commercialisation of intellectual property (IP) that finds, evaluates and develops latent IP in the region and raises awareness and skills in SMEs. DMU will increase engagement with a new group of end users in a new type of intervention that capitalises on existing multi-faculty expertise and innovation initiatives.

Sheffield Hallam University

Food Innovation Project

A multidisciplinary project team will exploit the university's latent capacity in food-specific and related research and knowledge transfer expertise, to deliver R&D and innovation into SMEs in the region's food cluster. It will pilot major interdisciplinary actions and the positioning of those actions alongside other delivery agencies in the region.

University of Hertfordshire


This ambitious project seeks to re-engineer the university to meet the needs of SMEs in the East and London regions. The project seeks to generate the necessary capability and responsiveness within the HEI, and provide a unique continuum of business engagement and support to meet the needs of businesses and students/graduates.

The projects were being funded via our Strategic Development Fund.

HEIs needing further information should contact their HEFCE regional consultant. For general information about the initiative contact Jenni Chambers, tel 0117 931 7041, e-mail

Last updated 11 December 2009