Blog: 10 tips on making a short-term business collaboration work for your academic career

John, who is studying his DPhil in economics, was approached by an international co-operative from the dairy industry to deliver a research project.

The company wanted to commission a rigorous report quantifying the potential economic losses and risks that face the dairy industry post-Brexit. Working with a colleague, he had just 10 days to undertake the research and deliver a report. Here, he shares his advice on how to make a consultancy project work:

  1. Be open minded. I was approached out of the blue by the business through my research centre. My research specialism is international trade but not necessarily Brexit, but this gave me an opportunity to stay current and explore new angles.
  2. Try something new – a short term project offers you the chance to experience consultancy and a fresh way of working.
  3. Be aware of the potential for tight turnaround on work. The business world operates with different time pressures to academia.
  4. Collaborate with other researchers – a short report gives you a taster of working with other academics without the deeper commitment of co-authoring a paper.
  5. Try to make sure that business partner is clear about what it wants to achieve before you start working on the project.
  6. Be prepared for minimal contact with the business organisation – you may only have access to bare data, so be prepared to work fairly independently.
  7. Be aware your project might not have the same importance and priority for everyone involved, which can make accessing people within the business challenging.
  8. Be prepared to deliver good quality outputs under pressure. I now feel better equipped to make decisions when there is a trade-off between rigour and timely delivery.
  9. Don’t feel obliged to accept whatever comes your way. Think about your capacity to take on a short-term project. For example, this project came in the summer months but I declined to take part in the final presentation to the business so I could concentrate on my DPhil work.
  10. Take advantage of the opportunity to earn some extra money! Boost your scholarship or research grant.