Working with Industry

Today, as part of the Research Capability Development Programme in the Institute for Manufacturing, Paul Christodoulou (www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/people/pac46/) drew upon his industrial background and IfM ECS experience to describe some history and ideas for crafting relationships and project portfolios for researchers collaborating with industry.

At the core of his thinking is the idea of a portfolio of work with industrial collaborators that ranges through

  • Early stage research exploring emerging concepts and technologies, typically the domain of PhDs
  • Collaborative research, exploring applications and developing insights as theory is put into practice
  • Applications work, much closer to consultancy focused on solving specific problems.

Manuf FootprintPaul discussed the way in which research topics evolve as the domain matures.  Some areas, especially those around strategic decision-making, are amenable to developing tool kits and ‘productising’ to enable them to be scaled up and rolled out.  Indeed, this is the domain in which ECS has worked successfully for some time in bringing research insights to industrial application.

He described the importance of providing ‘opinion-leading’ insights as a showcase for competence and how well this has worked in generating enquiries from industry for collaboration, often leading to long-term relationships.  One example of this approach is “Making the right things in the right places” – (www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/uploads/Resources/Reports/footprint_strategy.pdf)

Interesting discussions included the way in which a portfolio of options for industrial engagement can be marshalled, the importance of maintaining clarity about what is to be delivered, and the differences between research and consultancy.

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