Knowledge for all sounds really appealing and it can be great in some circumstances, for example software released under open source licensing. However, many products need very significant investment to reach market. In the pharmaceuticals sector it can cost as much as $1.5 billion to bring a new product to market, and even in other sectors that have a lower regulatory requirement it can cost many tens of millions to develop a product, and sort out manufacturing, distribution, marketing and so on. Intellectual property rights provide a way to ensure a return on that investment.
If the work has received financial support from organisations outside the University, they may have included in their funding terms a requirement for the researchers to consider what might be the best means of achieving maximum public benefit from the research outputs before publishing.
There is a difference between open access publishing and open source licensing. Research Services have a useful advice page about open access, including open source software licensing
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