Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)

The Department for Employment and Learning’s primary funding tool for promoting this activity is the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF). The objective of HEIF is to encourage the higher education sector to increase their capability to respond to the needs of business (including companies of all sizes) and the wider community, with a clear focus on the promotion of wealth creation. The long term aim of this funding is to improve Northern Ireland’s innovation performance as a key element in raising productivity and delivering economic growth.

HEIF was initially a joint initiative run by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) and Invest Northern Ireland. The first round of HEIF was launched in 2004 with approximately £9m allocated to the universities over 3 years via a competitive submission process.

Following an evaluation of HEIF 1, DEL and Invest NI launched a second round of 3 year funding at similar levels to before, but with 80% of the funding now allocated on a metrics/formula basis (administered by DEL) and 20% via competitive bids (administered by Invest NI). This reflects wider UK Government policy which supports the establishment of permanent and predicable funding streams for university-based Knowledge Transfer activities thus allowing HEIs to plan and retain key staff.

In 2009/10, the Department and Invest NI commissioned an Evaluation of NI HEIF 2. Following an open tender, the evaluation was undertaken by FGS McClure Watters, overseen by a Steering Group consisting of officials from the Department for Employment and Learning, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Invest NI.

This latest evaluation provides an objective and positive assessment of the performance of NI HEIF 2 in underpinning the universities’ core outreach (“Third Stream”) activities. It also informs the development of NI HEIF 3 which is to be taken forward by the Department for Employment and Learning as the policy lead for university core funding.

The funding for NI HEIF 3 will be allocated to the two universities on the following basis:

  • 20% - Foundation Funding to be split equally between the two institutions and to be focused on strategic / longer-term planning;
  • 80% - Formula Funding to be split on the basis of the performance metrics for the two most recent Academic Years for which published data is available ie AY 07/08 and AY 08/09. These metrics are the same metrics as used for NI HEIF 2, thereby, critically, facilitating a degree of continuity between NI HEIF 2 and NI HEIF 3.

The funding is predicated on the submission by the universities of Knowledge Transfer Strategies to be agreed with the Department in consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Invest NI.

The final report was cleared for publication by Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, in July 2010.

For further information, please contact research.branch@delni.gov.uk external link (tel: 0289025 7637).