With just a few weeks until the Researcher Career Mobility Taskforce reports its findings, we’re reflecting on the analysis that has supported our recommendations.

Recommendations in the report will focus on what funders, organisations and individuals can do to normalise mobility between academia and industry and increase opportunities for researchers at all career stages.

The Taskforce report draws on research by Thinks Insight & Strategy and Technopolis, which demonstrates the positive impact career mobility can have on both individual researchers, their employers and the economy.

Through in-depth interviews, Thinks Insight & Strategy has explored the mobility experience of innovation-focused staff between universities and businesses.

In its report ‘A qualitative deep dive into experiences and attitudes towards the cross-sector mobility of researchers’, Thinks sets out in detail the different types, scale, and outcomes of researcher mobility between academia and industry. It also identifies opportunities to enhance and enable researcher mobility in the future.

Through 29 in-depth, hour-long interviews with stakeholders from universities and businesses as well as individual researchers, Thinks’ research found that stakeholders see career mobility as beneficial to research practices for both academia and industry. Moreover, they expect researchers in the future to work across sectors more commonly throughout their careers.

Andy Barker, Associate Partner at Thinks Insight & Strategy, said: ‘Whilst stakeholders and individual researchers agree that ‘researcher mobility’ refers to a temporary or permanent movement of researchers from one sector to another, the research shows that businesses and universities might well have a different definition of mobility underpinning their activities.

Dr Madeleine Rungius, Senior Research Executive at Thinks Insight & Strategy, added “Stakeholders and individual researchers see an opportunity in developing a uniform understanding of mobility as well as joint frameworks in institutions’ strategy. They see it as conducive to nurturing existing opportunities for researchers and see it as instrumental in making cross-sectoral mobility a more inclusive career choice.”

Respondents also indicated that a uniform approach to researcher mobility is seen as particularly beneficial for expanding opportunities and overcoming the different barriers individual researchers experience at early, mid and late-career stage.

Data analysis from Technopolis Ltd reviewed the international characterisation of researcher mobility schemes while also exploring UK interventions.

In investigating a collection of mobility schemes in Sweden, France, Canada, South Korea, Ireland, Norway, the United States, and Germany, the Technopolis team was guided by a review of reports and relevant literature. Priority was given to ongoing schemes, providing direct support to researchers or those general R&D grants where mobility appeared as a key objective. The analysis identified 17 different schemes, including mobility in both directions (research to industry and vice versa), to showcase the wide range of expected outputs, outcomes and impacts, providing us with additional insights.

Claudia Obando Rodriguez, Senior Consultant at Technopolis Ltd, said “The research highlighted how intersectoral mobility does not occur in isolation, but is part of a wider policy mix of instruments that stimulate research-industry collaboration. Overall, there are very few impact evaluations of intersectoral mobility schemes and programmes, however reports and monitoring data provide several key insights for the UK.”

Acquisition of valuable, transferrable skills is a focus for many of the schemes explored.

She continued: “There is evidence of new skills being acquired which support employability throughout the lifespan of researcher careers. In addition, the links between university and industry are strengthened through the implementation of intersectoral mobility opportunities. Universities that recognise and reward intersectoral mobility reap additional benefits from their researchers who continue to act as long-term knowledge brokers with industry. These programmes improve the flow of knowledge between sectors and lead to ongoing engagement.”

NCUB will publish the evidence reports from Thinks and Technopolis alongside the main Taskforce report on Tuesday 19 September, along with an additional report from NCUB’s data experts. Please join us for the in-person launch event in London.