Research partners and support

Collaborating with research institutions or universities can be a powerful way for UK businesses to access cutting-edge research and innovation. Such partnerships can lead to the development of new products, services, and solutions, as well as enhanced competitiveness in the market. Below, we have outlined the things you need to think about to give you the best chance of a successful partnership that generates the research you need.

Identify your research needs

Like any brief, you need to start with a clearly defined objective/s for your project. Think about what your business needs, what areas you lack expertise in and where these gaps can be filled by a research partner.

Identify your potential research partners

You want to find a research institutions or academic department that aligns with your research needs. Do your research and find out a bit more about who is doing exciting work in what area. Attend industry-specific events and conferences to network with potential partners. You can also make use of platforms such as the Knowledge Transfer Network to find partners. Locally, you can connect with the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships teams at York University and York St John University. You might also wish to offer an internship or work placement to a student (such as at York St John University).

Establish contact and make an agreement

Once you’ve identified potential partners, reach out to relevant academic contacts. Have a summary brief ready, which outlines your business objectives, expectations of what the research element would deliver, and the mutual benefits of collaboration. You can then set up a meeting to discuss the project further if they are interested.

If you both agree you’d like to work together, you can move on to draw up a project plan to outline the shared scope, objectives, areas of responsibility, timeline, budget and expected outcomes.

You should also take this opportunity to define intellectual property rights from any research produced, including data sharing, and confidentiality agreements. The Government has produced guidance to support with this.

Secure funding

Once you have your agreement in place (or during the process), if you need specific funding for this project that you don’t have already, there are a number of opportunities and grants available for collaborative research projects. You can see a list of some of these on our website, but your partner may also have connections and recommendations for avenues to approach. Work with your partner to develop a strong proposal for these applications.

Manage the project

Like any type of project, you should follow the principles of project management. Appointing a project manager, or designating a member of staff to oversee the partnership from your side is critical to maintaining timelines, monitoring progress and navigating changing circumstances. Crucially, ensure you have a structure for regular communication and updates so that you and your research partner are fully aware of progress. The London School of Economics has some useful guidance on this (designed for the research institution, but the principles are applicable for all parties).

Learn more

Find out about tax relief for research and development