Is consultancy still a dirty word in academic circles?
With the push for greater impact from the research base and more academic-industry partnerships, will consultancy finally come out of the shadows and become fully part of academic life?
There has always seems to be a misconception that consultancy is against academic principles, with the notion of fully valuing your expertise and charge for this know-how at a commercial rate in wrong. Undertaking consultancy is not against academic principles and does not devalue academic life, in fact it has the opposite effect of enhancing academic life, creating new academic challenges and creating impact.
This can be achieved through developing new relationships with end users of research; this helps to reframe issues and look at research questions in a different light. Taking an end-user centric view can influence how fundamental research can be planned and in turn opens new doors and funding opportunities. The types of activity can range from developing new policies for governments, optimising technologies for not for profit organisations, all the way through to straight commercial technical problem solving. All of these activities have the ability to demonstrate social as well as economic impact for the academics and their universities.
As the amount of academic consultancy grows there are different models that have been developed by universities to realise all the benefits from undertaking this activity. As well as traditionally getting paid for consultancy, researchers often waive their fees to allow these funds to be reinvestment into fundamental research. In some cases, universities are now fully recognising this activity and including this as part of their promotion criteria as well as fundamental research. A true win-win situation.
Whatever the future for academic consultancy, there is market demand for expertise in a knowledge based economy. Universities need to consider how they motivate and reward their staff in this delivery of consultancy projects to enable to demonstrate more societal and economic impact.
Imperial Consultants (ICON)