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Five benefits of consultancy for academics

09 Mar 2023

Cameron Chalmers is a consultancy manager with Edinburgh Innovations. He supports research professionals to work with industry on short projects, and here he explains what the advantages are for academics

  1. Achieve impact through industry relationships

    Being able to demonstrate impact is increasingly important for an academic career, and one way to do that is to work with industry to help them solve a real-world problem. Some funding streams, such as EPSRC IAA, even require an industry partner. But ’industry’ can feel a bit daunting - how do you know which company to work with, or whether it’s the right one for you? A short consultancy project is a way to get to know an organisation and see if a longer relationship would work out. Maybe you’ve been approached by a company, or maybe you‘d like to work with one but don’t know where to start. Either way, come and talk to us: EI can help you find companies that need what you do, or develop an idea to collaborate on.

  2. Develop your own work

    University contracts usually allow for up to 60 days of paid consultancy per year. You could use a consultancy project to develop some preliminary findings, strengthening the case for a longer piece of research. Some consultancy projects are confidential, but if agreed with the client you could even publish a paper off the back of your consultancy project.

  3. Fund your research

    You could use income from consultancy to bring in extra staff, extend postdoc contracts or buy new equipment, strengthening your research capacity.

  4. Work with others within the university

    Consultancy is often required on cross-disciplinary projects, which can introduce you to researchers from other Schools and Colleges. As well as shed new light on your own work, this can also strengthen your funding applications. Recently, I have had Geosciences researchers working with the Business School and Maths on one project.

  5. Broaden your expertise

    The goals of a piece of consultancy work are usually led by the company, which can lead to you working in new areas and with new people. You could be a biologist brought in to work on an agriculture project, which would be fairly typical, or a geologist brought in to work on carbon accounting with SMEs from hairdressing to construction! It’s this interesting mix that can broaden your skillset. Plus, applying your skills to trying to solve a problem can develop your own understanding of your subject.

Image credit: Paul Dodds

Get in touch

Cameron Chalmers

Consultancy Manager