Finding the Right Project
Find the right project and help address real-world problems
Before you can partner with industry in your research, you need to invest time in finding the right project.
More often than not, industry members are more focused on their organization’s immediate needs rather than the benefits of long-term research investments. This means that you usually can’t take a project you’ve already outlined and successfully get industry funding. You need to identify what the industry needs and then figure out how your research and expertise can satisfy those needs.
Some companies post their needs or requests for proposals, which can help you cater your proposal to your audience. However, that is the exception rather than the rule. By far, the best method to identify how you can partner with an organization is through your personal and professional network.
This requires two things:
- The ability to speak to your research capabilities broadly.
- A good network and the willingness to use it.
Depending on your area of research and professional background, this can be challenging in multiple ways.
For those of us in highly specialized research areas it needs to be clear what specific benefits you can provide to your potential research partner. You need to clearly define what you provide. When partnering with external researchers, like you, a company is presumably working with you because you have skills or an expertise they do not have in house. So in many cases, the company does not fully understand how your abilities can help them with their goals. You need to tell them how you can help.
For those of us who are either early in their career or work in an area with little connectivity to industry, your main efforts need to focus on developing your network.
There are simple ways you can work to develop you network. Leverage conferences, alumni groups, career fairs, and tools like LinkedIn to introduce yourself to company representatives. These company representatives can potentially introduce you to the right people in their organizations to learn about research capabilities and interest in external partnering. You need to find your internal champions: these are the people who will help you shape a project and sell it to management.
Creating these partnerships takes time and diligence, but will pay in the form of a diversified research portfolio, increased publication rates, greater exposure and recognition for your work, and potential jobs for your students.