Engaging business with your research

In today’s blog Clare Sowney, Business Development Manager, Edinburgh Research Office, shares some highlights from our Engaging Business with your Research Learning Lunch, held earlier this year.

Four academic colleagues presented at the event, all with different experiences of and insights into engaging businesses with their research;

  • Professor Christina Boswell, Dean of Research CAHSS and Professor of Political Science.
  • Dr Andrew Manches, Director of the Children and Technology Group and Senior Lecturer in the School of Education.
  • Dr James Cook, Lecturer of Early Music in the Reid School of Music.
  • Professor Angela Tregar, Personal Chair in Marketing, Business School.

During the event, each of the panellists shared their experience of how they worked with business through their research to create impact.

A diversity of research and business collaborations

As always the speakers on the panel were inspiring, but it was the sheer diversity of their research and type of business collaborations that really struck a chord with the audience.   We know that for some academics, working with business can be viewed as unappealing, and even seen as a conflict of interest.  At the event we aimed to address these worries by showcasing how diverse business collaborations can be, and also, importantly, how they can have a significant societal impact.

The projects discussed ranged from advising businesses on Brexit, to carbon calculators addressing climate change, to immersive technology devices that enable people to not only access historical buildings as they were in the past, but to also experience live musical recordings in those buildings.

The panel reminded us that not only are the businesses that they collaborated with diverse; from small-scale industries, social enterprises, co-operatives to large companies, but also the research that they are interested in is wide ranging.

A forum of learning from peers

Engaging with business can be challenging. Our events provide a forum to learn from peers.

Key learning points that emerged were:

  • Understanding the timescales on which the business you want to partner with operates.
  • Seeking to understand a potential partner’s priorities and how they align with yours.
  • Ensuring you both have the same understanding of what collaboration and innovation means.

Our panellists offered advice:

  • Be flexible where possible.
  • Small pots of funding can go a long way, and help you maintain momentum.
  • Take the time at the start to really understand priorities and timescales, to prevent issues arising later on.

Accessing the right support is key

The panellists talked about the support they had received from the University to help them with their collaborations.  This included expertise and time from the Edinburgh Research Office Knowledge Exchange and Impact Team and accessing internal funding like the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.  The panellists in particular advised that if you can get some funding for additional resource on your project such as research assistants, this can go a long way and helps keep the project momentum and helps to ensure positive outcomes.

The Knowledge Exchange & Impact team at Edinburgh Research Office offer one to one bespoke support and advice for researchers. We can:

  • help identify funding and partnership opportunities
  • broker connections
  • negotiate intellectual property
  • deliver training so researchers feel equipped with the necessary skills and experience needed to work with partners and businesses.

We are happy to speak to you at any time about your research, even if your idea or who you want to work with isn’t fully formed. So please – do get in touch!

Further information

Download slides from the event (University of Edinburgh Staff access only).

If you would like to speak to a member of the Knowledge Exchange and Impact team about your research please email us at ke.office@ed.ac.uk .  The earlier we know about your research, the more opportunity, help and advice we will be able to give.

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Clare Sowney

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