Impact* is the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy.  Economic and societal impacts embrace all the extremely diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations by:

  • fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom,
  • increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy,
  • enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.

Impact from research activities and findings can take many forms. The impact of research is one of the outcomes assessed during REF.  Research should have a significant cultural, economic, environmental, health, public policy and societal impact on the local, national and international stage.

There are many ways of achieving impact such as public engagement, and working with industry, the third and public sectors, with social enterprises and charities, and with policy makers.

REF2021 & Achieving Impact and Impact Case Study Template

* Definition of Impact from BBSRC definitions.

Pathways to Impact

UKRI Research Council applications now require Pathways to Impact (i.e. Impact Summary and Pathways to Impact) as part of each application. UKRI is trying to ensure the potential impact of the research it funds is maximised. In order to assess this, the impact of excellent research needs to be clearly articulated in funding applications. It is crucial that the Research Councils demonstrate the impact of the research they fund in order to show value for public funding.  UKRI interprets the impact of research in the very broadest terms encompassing academic, economic, social and wider impact.

Public Engagement with Research

The Public Engagement with Research Unit will help with public engagement activities.  A full and varied schedule of activities and training programmes are held throughout the year.

REF Impact

REF2021 will require the submission of impact case studies.

Knowledge Exchange

Knowledge exchange is the two way flow of information and ideas between university researchers and industry and the third sector.  Research outputs are transferred to industry and the third sector and questions and problems posed by industry and the third sector influence research carried out in the University.

Working with Industry

Working with industry partners, social enterprises, charities or the public sector offers excellent opportunities to innovate, and develop and validate new services and technologies in the market place.

Partnerships with industry may involve research collaborations, funded R&D or consultancy.

In particular, there are support mechanisms for working with small businesses including SFC Innovation Vouchers for working with SMEs in Scotland.

Intellectual Property and Inventions

The University of Aberdeen supports the development and licensing of intellectual property and encourages researchers who develop intellectual property (such as inventions, software, designs and creative works) to contact Research & Innovation to discuss protection and exploitation of intellectual property.

The University's Policy for Intellectual Property Exploitation and Revenue Sharing covers the University's policy to reward and encourage researchers to commercialise intellectual property.

Find out more about intellectual property and the process of disclosing an invention to the University here.


Commercialisation is the process by which research outcomes are brought to market through the development of new products, services or technologies.  This often involves the protection of intellectual property and there is usually a commercial return to the University.

Common routes for commercialisation include the licensing of technologies for development for the market and the formation of spin out companies.

If you are interested in discussing commercialisation of research outputs, please contact a member of the Impact and Knowledge Exchange team.

Information on previous spin outs from the University may be found here.


The University wishes to encourage its staff and students to be entrepreneurial.  In addition to working with staff and students who wish to spin out companies based on University intellectual property, the University supports other initiatives designed to aid entrepreneurship auch as the Converge Challenge business competition (open to staff, students and recent graduates).

If you wish to discuss a spin out or start up company, please contact the Impact and Knowledge Exchange team.

Showcase your research

We recently published a number of research highlights on our Research Impact page, to showcase how our world-leading research makes a significant impact both locally and around the world.

If you have a research project that you would like to be drafted into a similar feature please fill in the form below and a member of the Digital Communications Team will be in touch.