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Working with industrial partners

Working with Industrial Partners 

Some three per cent of research grants funded by BBSRC have industrial partners who contribute financially and intellectually to the design, conduct and exploitation of research undertaken in universities and government-funded institutes.  The funding schemes by which universities engage with industry take various guises. If the schemes have one common goal, it is meaningful dialogue between the partners leading to technological advance that has potential to be exploited in a commercial setting.

Only a week ago we hosted a visit by a young scientist from our industrial partner seeking to learn from our expertise. Our partner operates in the Industrial Biotechnology sector with products for baking, detergent, pulp and paper, grain and oilseed processing, and, in context of our work at UEA, animal feed uses. This visit was one of a number of meetings that date to one in 2012 brokered by a former Ph.D. student of the School of Biological Sciences then working for the Knowledge Transfer Network.

Our particular interaction with industry has since witnessed failed applications to the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) and recently to the Norwich Research Park’s own Doctoral Training Program. A prospective industrial partner is, clearly, not a guarantee of success in any scheme, but a convincing demonstration of engagement between partners is paramount.  The latter may, paradoxically, be evidenced by previous failed applications. Our interaction now extends to support for Ph.D. students, BBSRC IPA and BBSRC LINK awards and contract research.

If I were asked what is the most important facet of character of an academic seeking to work with industry, I would identify a wholly collaborative mindset with particular attention to the needs of others.  Of course, a healthy disregard for that curious conceit of metricians, not the poets , the Impact Factor, will not go amiss.

Note: The views expressed here are those of the author, and not, necessarily, those of the University of East Anglia.




Dr Charles Brearley

Reader in Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences

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