Joint research is a system by which common research themes are proposed together between private companies and academic institutions (universities, and public research institutes), with research teams from both sides participating.
Joint research between academia and business and the commercialisation of R&D results are very closely linked, with the commercialisation of R&D results normally being the next step to joint research.
Benefits for researchers at public research institutions:
- Access to real data
- Boosting the impact of research results;
- Opportunity to utilise your expertise to solve real, tangible problems;
- Increased understanding of the needs of the business and the chance to identify new avenues for collaboration
- Increased employability of researchers beyond academia
In the case of the business partner:
- Access to unique expertise beyond its own resources
- Information on emerging, less codified trends in certain leading-edge fields
- Identifying further collaborations
- Largely dependent on existing funding programmes
- Co-funding is generally required from the side of the company
- IPR issues may need to be considered in case the collaboration leads to the commercialisation of R&D results. Actually, IP position should allow further academic and collaborative research, and avoid impeding the dissemination of the R&D results. The guidelines should be clear at an early stage, even before any commercialisation of R&D results is started.
- Measuring impact (e.g., co-authorships are likely to be under representative)
You can check some joint researcher funding programmes in
- The BRIDGES programme provides financial support for industry partnerships between public research institutions in Luxembourg and national or international companies.
- FUSION is funding programme of the Malta Government aimed at raising the level and profile of locally funded research; ingraining research and innovation at the heart of the Maltese economy; spurring knowledge-driven and value-added growth; and sustaining improvements in the quality of life.
- The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) manages the Innovation Voucher, a funding instrument designed to help small and medium-sized enterprises in Austria to start ongoing research and innovation activities.
When we speak of the commercialisation of R&D, we refer to effectively exploiting publicly-funded research results with a view to translating them into new products and services. This normally happens in three possible ways:
- Academic institutions transfer inventions via the sale, transfer or licensing of intellectual property, often on an exclusive basis, to existing firms or to new ventures (e.g. academic spin-offs).
- Contract or collaborative R&D whereby academic institutions are solicited by business actors to find solutions to production and innovation problems.
- Commercialisation of R&D can come linked to entrepreneurial channels in the shape of start-ups, incubators and accelerators.
- Raise additional funding for research and spurring new start-ups.
- Greater interaction between public research and business in order to increase the social and private returns from public support to R&D.
- A key element to attract students, scientists and further research funding, in particular from the private sector and at international level.
- Academia needs to disseminate research outputs effectively (either to showcase possible inventions to transfer or to give visibility to research expertise suitable for contract or collaborative R&D)
- The active engagement of public research organisations in intellectual property (IP) management and knowledge transfer is essential. This includes challenges at several levels:
- The promotion towards faculty and student research and IP ownership model: “professor’s privilege” (granting academics the right to own patents) vs institutional ownership (which should still include incentives to disclose, protect and exploit their inventions such as royalty sharing agreements or equity participation in academic start-ups)
- Balancing IP protection with the need to maintain public access. Although quantitative studies tend to show that patenting has led universities to conduct more applied research. But by making university research more responsive to the economy, is there a danger that basic research will suffer?
- Limited availability of technology transfer professionals. Need to generate targeted support for IP management at PRIs through funding, guidelines and skills training.
- Improve the coherence of their respective ownership regimes as regards IP rights in such a way as to facilitate cross-border collaborations and knowledge transfer in the field of research and development.
- Building the required institutional capabilities at universities and public research centres is central to public efforts to commercialise public research. In this sense, many countries have supported the development technology transfer and licensing offices (TTOs/TLOs) within academic institutions. Make sure to liaise with such units.
- Incentives for the commercialisation of R&D are set at the institution level, but national guidelines can help bring about coherence and the sharing of good practices.
- The entrepreneurial options imply the adoption of mentoring and training for academic entrepreneurs, funding, spaces (e.g. incubators) and policies to promote venture and angel capital, government seed funds or platforms to link angel investors and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In parallel, there should be efforts for promoting entrepreneurship among the institutions staff and students.
Learn how other institutions manage the commercialisation of R&D
The scientific and technological challenges that researchers are facing nowadays are extremely complex and, in many cases, require new approaches to research and training. Besides, PhD holders are facing an increasingly competitive job market. In this context, temporary mobility or internship represent the ability to push oneself out the comfort and a chance to broaden career prospects.
Temporary mobility, understood as any opportunity to face research from different points of view (different resources, supervisors, environments and/or goals) by temporary changing researcher’s workplace, can make CV stand out.
- Researchers can develop complementary skills and competences leading to improved employability and career prospects.
- Enhanced cooperation and development of collaborative networks.
- Boosting of R&I capacity among participating organisations
- Transfer of knowledge between sectors, disciplines or institutions.
- Brings prestige to granting organization (e.g., Royal Society Industrial Fellowships)
- Funding support.
- Being flexible in the eligibility criteria of possible funding schemes considering the different natures and needs of academic and business organizations.
- The need of commitment from hosting organization to maintain researcher during the period of time defined (e.g., difficult for SME’s with more financial restrictions).
- Deal with the absence of a researcher during the mobility.
- Recognition of mobility in the appraisal systems of academic institutions.
- Measurement of its impact in researcher’s’ career.
Learn how other institutions manage temporary mobility with business:
Here we will describe an Industrial PhD as a, usually, three-year PhD project, where the PhD student is employed by a private enterprise and has an enrolment at the university at the same time. The PhD student is admitted to a PhD programme like all other PhD students, but shares his/her working time between a business organization and the university following the needs of the associated research project.
- High employability: although there is no guarantee of a job at the end of an industry-based PhD, the company has invested time and money in the researcher so he/she will be in a strong position when openings arise. Besides, doctoral candidates gain expert know-how in the private sector and learn how to succeed in a business environment. The relationships and experiences earned during an industrial PhD can also boost their employability.
- Bridging science in academia and industry: Universities can receive financial support from the companies involved. On the other hand companies are able to develop their human resources by training and supporting the next generation of researchers. They also enhance their competitiveness and innovation through knowledge transfer with universities and research institutions.
- PhD candidates can have higher salaries than regular PhD candidates in academia.
- Business host organization can increase its growth and patenting activity
- Getting industry involved due to a lack of flexibility in the schemes (e.g., for PhD candidates from outside academia having to balance business work obligations).
- Getting academia involved due to a lesser involvement in the the implementation of the scheme (E.g., due to the PhD doing most of the research in the business organization).
- Sustainability: giving continuity to the programme so that positions can be offered every year.
- Different priorities: there is a need to ensure that the award of a doctoral degree leads to the advancement of knowledge whereas the priorities of engaging intersectorally mobile researchers from an industry perspective include, among others, obtaining the necessary human resources and skills to solve problems, developing new products and processes and implementing existing solutions more efficiently.
There are different types of professional doctorates and in the absence of general regulation they have evolved differently in different countries. Find a review here.
There are no common rules at the European Union level regulating the matter and the wording ‘European Industrial Doctorate’ refers to a specific EU programme launched within the framework of the Marie Curie Action, which consists of a joint doctorate developed between an academic participant (university, research institution and so on) and a company established in two EU member states.
See how other institutions implement their industrial PhD programmes
Currently, there are many on-line platforms publishing job offers for professionals.
Nevertheless, when thinking about researcher and highly skilled profiles, it is not so common to find platforms which can include job offers from higher education institutions and other academic organizations, together with positions in business organizations. This implies that it is not always easy for a grad students, PhDs and experienced researchers to located job offers out of the academia.
In those cases where a job database with positions in academia and business can be found, this is normally part of a wider engagement strategy, such as the management of alumni networks.
- Starting point for future academia-business collaborations (e.g., internships, industrial PhD programmes, etc.)
- Fostering a better understanding of careers
- Better informed researchers and industry
- Showcasing researcher career opportunities beyond academia
- Raise awareness on researchers’ employability
- Finding collaboration and interest from the industry side
- Larger research intensive enterprises most probably use their own recruitment channels
- Lack of knowledge from business employers about the employability potential of academic researchers
- Limited engagement between academic institutions and business employers
- Language barriers
- Different selection criteria for positions in academia vs positions in business
Learn how other institutions share information on job offers with business:
Academic institutions can offer consultancy services for business organizations based on their knowledge and/or expertise. This service can help industry, government and community organisations in finding solutions to research or business questions.
The exact consultancy services provided will thus depend on the academic organization’s expertise, but in general consulting is a way of sharing and applying the wealth of specialist knowledge and expertise that exists within academia. The possible services can include:
- Specialist opinion
- Technical and professional advice
- Expert witness services
- Independent judgement
- Business advice (e.g., in the case of Business Schools)
Consultancy services can also be very closely linked with the sharing infrastructures such as of state of the art testing and analysis facilities.
Benefits for academia:
- Gain up-to-date commercial insights that can inform other research and teaching.
- Improved links with the business community.
- Additional income to support future academic work.
Benefits for business:
- Access skills, expertise and equipment that are not available in-house.
- New perspectives on business challenges.
- Greater understanding of advances in research.
- Relationship building and networking opportunities.
- A range of consulting services coming from independent expertise.
Generally speaking, we could differentiate two models of consultancy:
- Institutional consultancy: The consultancy that is negotiated by the university and where a member of staff engages with a client as an employee of the university, thereby benefiting from the full support of the university and its wholly owned subsidiary (if any).
- Individual consultancy: The consultancy that is carried out by a member of staff as a result of his/her direct contact or negotiation with a client.
In both cases, the main barriers to overcome would be:
- Having a detailed and updated knowledge of the expertise housed in the academic institution.
- Support from business development team.
If you are thinking about engaging your researchers in consultancy work, check:
Learn how other institutions manage their consultancy services:
The concept “research infrastructures” is a wide concept, but here we refer to all the facilities, resources and related services that are used by the scientific community to conduct their research. This includes scientific equipment, instruments, archives or, even, virtual infrastructures such as scientific information online platforms.
The approaches for sharing research infrastructures can range from opening up the infrastructure within the academic organization for the use of business by defining an access policy, to a much higher level of engagement that would include working towards the construction of a joint infrastructure with a number of public and private partners.
- Share the cost of the infrastructure among different partners
- Exploit an infrastructure to the fullest (making sure it is not underused)
- Stimulate researchers from the academic institution mingling with business organizations
- Facilitate joint research among academia and industry
On a very general level, we can compare two possible approaches:
Opening up “up and running” infrastructures to business
This could require
- Identifying the research infrastructures your institution has with an overview of the cost, users and current degree of exploitation.
- Giving the appropriate visibility to the infrastructure offered. This could be within the institution (e.g., institutional web), but also within a wider regional/national map (e.g., the Unique Scientific and Technical Infrastructures in Spain, ICTS). Ideally, the promotion of available infrastructures should go beyond the usual suspects.
- Discussing with the managers of the infrastructure what the current access policies for business is (if any). Some possibilities include open public competitive calls for external users, bilateral collaboration agreements or simply a fee basis.
- Training for external users in order to use the infrastructure the appropriate way.
Building research infrastructures with business partners
When academia and industry interests meet, it can be interesting to work on building a joint co-shared infrastructure. CNRS has recently published a very comprehensive report describing structures as these.
- These collaborations are very structured, with very well defined boards and collaboration guidelines. A number of decisions need to be made: mission, funding, governance, ownership and exploitation of results, etc.
Learn how other academic institutions manage the sharing of their research infrastructures:
A Career Day is an event to help researchers making a career in science. It shall provide advice and information on how to pursue career development, promote formal and informal networking activities (speed dating or one-to-one meeting with possible recruiters), exposure to other employment options, and also training workshops (such as CV drafting or presentations skills). This action aims at promoting jobs and growth by providing information on research careers, jobs and funding opportunities and support services to students and researchers on the ground.
Regarding industry involvement, it will be important to count on local industry and individuals who can provide:
- Examples of personal success beyond academy: entrepreneurship, collaborations with industry or a scientific career in a company;
- Examples of companies willing to hire researchers or highly skilled professionals (Future Leaders/talents programmes), SME, technology-based companies, pharmaceutical or engineering companies, etc.
- Reinforcement of relations between industry and academia.
- Exposure of young researchers to other career options beyond academia.
- Better preparation of researchers for a labour market beyond academia.
- Establishment of professional networks in science.
- Defining the programme: Finding funding for this kind of events can be a problem, so a feasible option could be organizing single periodic thematic workshops so that logistics are reduced.
- Identifying individuals to share their experience: Searching among professors, researchers, or alumni networks can be a nice starting point.
- Identifying local industry interested in hiring researchers or highly skilled professionals: One of the key barriers identified for intersectoral mobility is based on cultural beliefs. Both, business employers and researchers tend to have stereotyped perceptions from the other (e.g., researchers assume that working outside the academia they will lose all of their research freedom, and business employers see academic researchers being too rigid and specialized in “their field”), so giving the opportunity to meet in person can help overcoming these prejudices.
- Promotion of the programme: Getting good speakers is a key but also attracting the correct public. Making a wide promotion and facilitating the attendance to the sessions will make the difference (accessible venues, non-working hours, etc.).
Learn how other institutions organize career days for engaging with business partners and supporting intersectoral mobility:
An alumni network in the research context is an association of post-graduates or former students and researchers (i.e. alumni network of a university) or ex-grantees of a given grant
These networks can be self-managed by the own members. These kind of networks belong to the so-called “talent networks” where professionals or people with a given interest stay connected in order
- to support each other
- to have access to professional opportunities
- to create a community with common interests.
Alternatively, the networks can be run by the institutions / organizations in order
- to stay in touch with former students or researchers, as they are somehow accountable for their careers and in order to support their life-long learning and professional needs.
- to have access to a rich source of expertise that can be exploited by the institution in a number of ways.
- To facilitate the transition from higher education to the working environment of your alumni and to prove their professional future is also the institution’s responsibility.
- To assure that the relationship with your ex alumni does not end when they graduate (you expand the boundaries of your institution through your ex-alumni).
- To have access to a pool of experts linked to your institutions that can contribute with their experience to the development of your curricula (it is a great source of potential keynote speakers for conferences, visiting professors, experts, etc.)
- To facilitate networking activities among your ex alumni (mentoring, alumni events, etc.) and to cultivate a feeling of belonging to a community, social identity and mutual support.
- To support inter-sectoral and inter-disciplinary networks.
- To identify and support your alumni long-life learning needs.
- To monitor the career progression of your ex alumni (employment-rates, work destinies, salaries, etc.). This information can be very relevant to promote your institution as a good start of future students´ careers and/or to help you adapt your curricula to a very fast changing working environment.
- To establish working relationships with different stakeholders through your ex alumni.
- In some countries, alumni networks are also a tool to help fund Alma Maters.
Although Internet and the rise of professional and social media platforms have facilitated the management of these networks, the key challenge of an alumni network is launching the initiative. This is what needs to be decided:
- Aims of the network: Try to focus on a few objectives that allow the network take off and wait for some of them to once you have proved the network is useful for your members (for instance, make sure the network is reliable and prestigious before trying to raise funds for your institution).
- Benefits and services offered to members. These can include:
- Institutional services (e.g., access to scientific journals and access to their premises like the library, sports facilities, etc.).
- Job posting (e.g., the possibility to post job offers directly or on their behalf)
- Organizing networking activities within the institution’s to support for the event.
- Webinars, for example on career development or other online services (e.g., applying for a specific funding programme). Most probably, your alumni will be spread throughout the country and beyond so it is wise to organize online activities.
- Mentoring activities. The alumni network is a fantastic source to find mentors for your industry mentoring activities as many of your former students will be working outside academia.
- Defining the alumni network project by setting milestones and objectives:
- How many members you are aiming at in the first year?
- How fast you estimate you will grow?
- Who is going to be in charge of invigorating and updating the network and with what kind of activities?
- Are thematic or regional chapters needed?
- How and when to collect feedback from network members?
- Estimated budget: There are many different options to create an alumni association and it will depend, among others, in the available budget. As a minimum requirement, you will need a responsible of the network within the institution that makes sure to have an updated network and that organizes some off-line and on-line activities with enough periodicity
- Supporting platforms: There are many ways to digitally support an alumni network. You can use ad-hoc platforms (with emailer services, etc.) in which you have a thorough control of the membership or you can use already existing professional networks (such as Linked-in) to create an alumni group
- Promotional campaign: When the network project is ready, make sure you design an attractive campaign to reach the sufficient critical mass to start organizing activities planned.
The MSCA alumni association is a good example of ex-grantees self-managing their own network. Among their objectives, to enhance the flow of knowledge across different countries, sectors of the economy, and scientific disciplines is one of them. Also, as mentioned before, they are using the network to support a recently launched mentoring programme.
Alumni Channel Blog: News, links, articles, trainings, etc. for alumni relations, coordinators and professionals
Learn how other institutions use their alumni networks for engaging with business partners and supporting intersectoral mobility:
Mentoring is usually described as a relationship between a more experienced and knowledgeable person in an area of expertise (mentor) and a less knowledgeable person (mentee). This relationship is built in order to support the mentee in her academic, career, and personal growth.
A mentorship programme is a structured and formal way to establish these relationships between a number of mentors and mentees.
What we propose in this activity is an “industry mentoring programme” in which a research performing organization develops a programme to put young researchers in touch with researchers or highly skilled professionals working in industry.
- To expose young researchers to other career options besides academia
- To help researchers plan their careers better (as they are more aware of the different career paths there are for researchers and highly skilled professionals)
- To help researchers identify the set of skills and competences demanded in industry
- To create a network of professionals linked to your institution
- To establish working relationships with local industries
In this section we give you some tips on how to establish a mentoring programme at your institution but this is only orientative as one size does not fit all.
- Defining the programme and getting the approval of your institution: Put the project together: how many mentor/mentee couples you are aiming at, how long the programme is going to last, how you are going to foster couples meeting (virtually, physically, with what periodicity), what are the main goals of the project, what kind of collaborations you will need from your institution, what kind of training you will give to the mentors, how you are going to establish the pairing process, how you are going to monitor and evaluate the programme
- Identifying potential mentors: This is probably one of the most challenging steps of the programme as you will need to actively search for professionals with an interest in working in the programme with you. Having a well-established alumni network will help you in this phase. Otherwise, you will need to search for ex alumni or professionals in your region in professionals platforms (Linked-in, Research Gate, etc.) and/or, why not, open a public call. Once you have a good number of expressions of interest and a short profile of each of them (area of expertise, background, interests, etc.) you are ready to move to the next step. Make sure that your pool of mentors is well balanced in terms of gender and usually under represented collectives.
- Opening up a call searching for mentees at your institution: You will need to set up a call searching for mentees at your institution using your regular channels. Again, make sure that you do your best to come up with a pool of mentees that is well gender balanced.
- Pairing process: This is a crucial step of the programme. The process needs to be inclusive and diverse, making sure that both mentors and mentees have a say in the pairing process. Processes in which mentors and mentees haven´t had the change to help select who they want to work with have not performed well. The couples may be a “perfect match” on paper but may have different working or learning styles.
- Training mentors: There is general agreement that it is important to give your mentors the basics of mentoring so that they can perform their work correctly. Each institution will decide how in-depth this training will be but, in general terms, these are some topics you may want to cover:
- Description of the programme and its goals and methodology
- Definition of industry mentor and its responsibilities
- Techniques on how to begin and end a mentoring session.
- Mentoring techniques and tips (Do´s and don’t´s of a mentorship):
- Active listening
- How to comply with the ethics of the programme (confidentiality, free of charge, etc.)
- How to report any misconduct or misunderstanding with the mentee.
- Running and monitoring of the programme: It is important that the programme is correctly monitored by the institution. You will need to facilitate couples meeting (virtually or physically) and to be reachable for any question anyone participating in the programme may have. It is sometimes adviced that mentors have access to some short of mechanism by which they could discuss problems in their mentoring relationships and get advice. Likewise, it will be useful to facilitate an exchange mechanisms for mentees so they can discuss their experiences.
- Monitor and evaluation: In order to evaluate the success of the programme it is highly advisable to evaluate the results of the programme. Evaluating the impact of training activities is not a straight forward exercise whereas at the same time essential in order to improve the programmes. There are a number of theoretical frameworks that can be used in order to measure impact. In general terms, it is advised that 4 levels of impact are measured: reaction to the programme, learning impact, impact on the behavior of participants and impact on their careers. In the same fashion, it will also be useful to know whether the programme has allowed the institution to reach out to industries and stakeholders not reached before.
Academic mentoring is widely spread throughout European universities and research performing organizations. However, mentoring programmes in which academic researchers are put in touch with researchers and highly skilled professionals working in industry is probably not that common.
- FOSTERING DOCS: The Spanish Researchers in the United States of America Society (ECUSA) has launched a mentoring programme (Fostering docs) for their young researchers members working in the States. The programme puts mentees in contact with science professionals working in Spain in academia, industry, science communication or science policy in order to foster their career development. The programme runs for 6 months and its based on a virtual communication mentor-mentee. This programme is a good example on how not only research performing organisations but civil society groups can run a mentoring programme.
- EURAXESS TOP IV: As part of the next EURAXESS H2020 project (EURAXESS Top IV), FECYT will be running an industry-mentoring programme in which we will come up with more in-depth recommendations on how to set up this kind of mentoring programme in your EURAXESS centre. Stay tunned!
Learn how other institutions apply mentoring programmes to engage with business partners and support intersectoral mobility:
Sharing job offers
Consultancy for business
Researcher Career days