Value creation and impact of research

What's in a name?

Impact is the effects of research in 'the real world' or society. Impact is the changes we can see (demonstrate, measure, capture), beyond academia (in society, economy, environment) which happen because of our research (caused by, contributed to, attributable to). Impact may look and operate slightly differently across disciplines, and for fundamental vs. applied research, but ultimately is about connecting academic research to changes in society.

Impact is often used as a capture-all term to describe the part of the research process beyond the knowledge generation. We need to approach with an open mind since the boundaries between different concepts and processes are increasingly shifting and overlapping as a result of changing attitudes and methods. Evolutions such as open science and increased citizen involvement, research integrity and do-no-harm principles, or worldwide crises are having their own impact on how resilient and adaptive universities and their academic systems need to be.

Impact is driven by a number of factors including funders’ requirements and research assessment.

Result versus process

Research uptakeValue creation of research is the process that can lead to impact.

Impacts can occur at any stage in the research lifecycle – Opportunities for knowledge exchange can arise at any stage of the research lifecycle; these can often lead to impact. For example, impacts can be generated at the outset of a research programme by involving stakeholders from the very beginning; they can occur during the course of a research programme, linked to research process and methodologies; or they can be associated with targeted dissemination of the research findings. At all stages these activities can feed back to refine the research direction.

Although the researcher fulfils his/her responsibility  by planning for impact  (for instance by developing impact trajectories or pathways), a crucial role can be attributed to the actual uptake of scientific knowledge/products/innovation by the end-users.

There is no 'one size fits all' in value creation or mpact. Impact may be big or small, local or global, instrumental (direct change) or conceptual (ideas, feelings), quantitative (products, jobs, revenues) or qualitative. There is no single type of impact nor a single type of impact pathway.

Ghent University approach

Research impact

At Ghent University we want our research and researchers to have impact. For this aim we have introduced infrastructure, human capacity, and policy – because creating an impactful research environment and impact literate researchers needs interventions on different levels and collaboration across the university. In assessing and rewarding impact Ghent University's focus is on the process, i.e. valorisation or value creation (planning, impact pathway(s), interactions).

  • Two complementary policy and support frameworks make up the spectrum of socio-economic value creation and impact. Both are needed to address the broad approach.
    • The framework for technology transfer and innovation (the more linear and regulated form of value creation) has a more mature character, being a national/regional/institutional strategy for a longer period of time.
    • In 2015 a policy framework for societal value creation of research was launched – an area equally important to the mission of the university but less co-ordinated until then