N8 Co-production final report launches at Sheffield University


Academics, communities and policymakers can produce research which is both academically excellent and has real public benefit by working together, according to a major new report by the N8 Research Partnership launched at the University of Sheffield.

The Knowledge that Matters: Realising the Potential of Co-production programme was designed to take a fresh look at the way research is generated, with a particular focus on how better collaboration between academics and non-academics can generate research with academic rigour which can improve lives.

The research programme, which was funded by N8 and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), provides one of the first fully evidenced accounts of the benefits and opportunities as well as challenges of co-production.

The report draws on the insights from five pilot co-production projects run by N8 universities (the Universities of Leeds, York, Durham and Manchester) and their partners, focusing on skills in the context of devolution, policing and mental health, and community partnerships such as a city-lab and across multi-faith communities.

Researchers found that co-production challenges the boundaries of what is considered research and that this has considerable implications for understanding the nature of research and the potential to deliver impact and transformative change.


Benefits of co-production include:

•    Achieving rigour and relevance

•    Academic excellence and new intellectual insights

•    Better and more appropriate research methods

•    Wider public benefit in terms of supporting innovation and change

•    Financial benefits through the capacity to leverage resources and creativity


However, the findings of the research programme also suggest there are challenges in achieving the effective implementation of co-production.  These challenges exist at a fundamental level, in terms of presumptions about academic knowledge, skills and capabilities, as well as in a host of practical and organisational ways.

The report, which will be introduced by University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett at an event today, makes a series of recommendations for research funders, universities, non-academic organisations, researchers and the N8 Research Partnership.


Heather Campbell, Professor of Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield and N8 Lead for Co-production, said:

By academics and non-academics working intensively together, we can produce research that is both academically excellent and also delivers public benefit, not one or the other.

This is a hugely important message, more particularly for early career and new academics, that we can deliver academically excellent research that affects change on the ground, change that improves the lives of citizens, that develops our policymaking capacity and enables businesses to be more innovative and creative. Co-production has the capacity to have a really major impact.  However, co-production also challenges our current practices.  Innovation and change will be necessary if the latent potential of co-production is to be realised.

Peter Simpson, N8 Director, added:

This pioneering programme shows that working together in the spirit of co-production can improve the quality of research as well as make a real difference to people’s lives.


Find out more about the N8 research programme – Knowledge that Matters: Realising the Potential of Co-production, in the video below: