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Whether you want to acquire new innovations, IP, test a hunch, process some data, access talent or simply an extra pair of hands, university-business collaboration can be hugely beneficial to a businesses future.

“Unfortunately, a good relationship with any one university can be a hard won process”

Unfortunately, a good relationship with any one university can be a hard won process, and mostly only attainable by larger corporations. Departments such as Knowledge Transfer, Business Development and Enterprise are public facing, and can be a good place to start. It may take a little while to determine whether or not they will be able to help you with your particular enquirer, so it may be best to start your relationship with an easy win to get the ball rolling; something you know they’ve done before. Also, the academic year means you may have to wait until everyone is back after summer and new students are available.

When I was engaging with companies for internships as part of my Masters course I found that my universities Business Development team to be unhelpful in gaining the access to companies in my sector. It could have been due to the particular relationships they held or the fact that any one department has to service the whole university and they can be under staffed. I was also given some leads from my course lecturer, but is often the case, these can be limited to personal relationships unless they have gone out of their way to attract company interest.

 

Universities often have differing ways of doing everything. Different names for similar departments, different hierarchy, different preferences to research areas, different needs. This can be a huge challenge to businesses and can mean a university may have to be well researched before-hand whether or not they may be able to help you. Accessing several institutions at a time would be feat only fit for the most seasoned researcher / negotiator.

“Using locale is useful: local businesses to the university can gain access to skills by simply being close to the action and starting a dialogue with the institution.”

It’s not all doom and gloom however as there are several easy wins that I’ve seen personally during my Undergraduate and Masters’ programmes. Using locale is useful: local businesses to the university can gain access to skills by simply being close to the action and starting a dialogue with the institution. Also, offering a scholarship or prize is a quick way to open a conversation with a particular department and helps new research in the process.

I started Eulergy.com to help smaller companies and charities to access research within universities after the frustration of my own experience studying. Although there are great departments set up to help, like KTP, Business Development, Careers etc, they can’t always support smaller interactions where little money, IP or data is changing hands but where massive impact can be made.

Over the last few years, I have found above all overs that lecturing has been a great help to put my ideas and needs in front of students and academics, which hopefully is a win win: sparking imagination as well as gaining an extra pair of hands now and then.

Ben Byford is director of Eulergy.

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