Section 3: Topic 1

Different types of impact

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There are many different types of impact, with some types leading to others. Institutional definitions of impact often list types of impact, but there have been few attempts to categorise these to date. For example, the Higher Education Funding Council for England defines impact as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia”. More simply, the Australian Engagement and Impact Assessment defines impact as “the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research”.


It is possible to distinguish between ten types of impact. Categorising impacts in this way is useful, because it gives you a checklist for considering the full range of possible impacts you could seek to deliver through media engagement. Even if a researcher has a narrow focus on one type of impact (say, the economic impact of a spin-out company), it is often worth looking through the other types of impact that might arise, to consider whether you might also be able to help them generate these benefits. For example, a company’s new product may replace something that was energy intensive to produce, and so reduces greenhouse gas emissions, giving them an environmental impact as well as the original economic impact. 


Table 2 shows you the types of impact you can look for. The following subsections define each of these types of impact and give you examples of the sorts of things you might seek to do to achieve each type of impact. 

Table 2: Research impact typology with a fictional list of examples arising from media coverage of a new annual equality and diversity ranking and toolkit for FTSE100 companies based on research showing that companies that make