The Enterprising Researcher: a White Rose Collaboration
- University of York
- Yorkshire and North East
- Date first submitted:
- 9 Nov 2007
- Date last modified:
- 12 Nov 2010
- Personal effectiveness
- Knowledge exchange
- Enterprise-related activities
- Career development
- Research staff
- Research masters
- Final year Postgraduate Research Students
- Inter-institutional at the Universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds and laterly the Graduate Entrepreneurship Project
Rationale, aims and outcomes
What is the rationale for doing this?
How does it fit with institutional strategy?
What are the main features of the provision?
What are the aims and expected outcomes?
The 2007 RCUK Draft Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers highlighted the need for more structured skills and commercial awareness training for researchers. In 2008/9 The Universities of York, Leeds and Sheffield in the White Rose Consortium collaborated to develop and deliver an intensive and adventurous three-day residential programme that addresses both the factual aspects (Intellectual Property, Licensing etc) and the soft skills aspects (negotiation skills, networking etc) of enterprise and knowledge-based business development. This enabled researchers to be more aware of commercial potential of research, and provide them with commercial awareness should they leave the University research setting for a different career.
The principle objective set out in the University of York’s interim Business and Community Strategy for 2005-2009 is “To ensure the University fulfils its potential in engaging both business and the public sector with its world class research and teaching base whilst developing viable new enterprises and further extending its impact on the regional and the national economy and building social capital in the community”. The University of York was one of the pioneers of enterprise education in the UK and has pursued a range of initiatives to drive culture change across departments and develop enterprise skills for students and staff. Qualified and experienced researchers with commercial awareness and business skills are rapidly becoming seen as highly attractive and valuable, not only within universities but also in the wider business sector. The development of this course complimented fits the Roberts’ review recommendations and as highlighted above with the principles of the Revised Concordat.
The course ran as a pilot for the first time in March 2008. At the start of the course, participants were put into teams containing representatives from each university and each team will be given a piece of research as their primary case study. The case studies underpinned the entire course, and during the evenings the teams will apply what they have learnt during the workshop sessions to develop them progressively from a ’concept’ to a ‘virtual product’. The final session of the course saw each team presenting their virtual product in a business-style sales ‘pitch’ to an investment panel, made up of guest speakers. The guest speakers and investment panel were made up of experienced business professionals from a range of industries and will allow delegates to interact directly with potential employers. The course was taught through a succession of workshops using interactive exercises, case study material and external consultant speakers to introduce attendees to the key steps in commercialisation of research and they will also learn about the mindset of the entrepreneur.
The course followed the same format in 2009 and most recently in March 2010 where the main variant was the collaboration with Yorkshire Universities through the Graduate Entrepreneurship Project.
The primary aim of the course is to enable researchers to be more effective researchers, and to provide skills to broaden their professional career prospects should they decide to pursue a career away from academic research. It teaches the core factual elements of business development (including: market scoping; intellectual property rights and management; marketing and sales; raising finance; business plan development; spin-out company formation and licensing agreements, and respective exit strategies), as well as how to successfully negotiate a deal, deliver a business pitch, learn how to make the best of networking, leadership skills, motivation, self-awareness, determination and confidence. The outcome was that the researchers will gain commercial awareness, and understanding of research potential.
Are there any pre-requisites for engagement, e.g. levels of skill, years of experience, essential pre-activities?
How many participate in each 'activity'?
The course was targeted at full-time EPSRC final year PhD students and early career researcher staff from the Universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds in 2008 and 2009.
Ideally the maximum number on each run of the course will be 24 since this is a primarily workshop-based course (8 researchers from each of the Universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds).
In 2010, the course was aimed at the same target group, this time from the Universities of York, Leeds and those forming part of the Yorkshire Universities consortium. ( 8 researchers from each).
Evaluation: benefits, challenges and next steps
How do you monitor effectiveness?
Who do you seek feedback from?
Do you have benchmarks?
The key benefit of the provision is to equip PhD students and Postdoctoral researchers with the necessary entrepreneurial skills and commercial awareness to enable them to maximise the effectiveness of their work as researchers, and also to improve their employability should they decide to choose a career away from research.
One of the challenges was to get support for the programme from supervisors and PIs since this has an impact on take up and completion of the course. Ensuring that external speakers deliver the essential information was also key, and this is being addressed in the development of the programme moving forward.
Funding to sustain this development activity is also uncertain given the finite nature of the EPSRC enterprise funding stream.
This course was initially specifically targeted at EPSRC-funded researchers.There are opportunities to roll the course out to all PhD students and ECRs, encompassing not only the science disciplines but also the arts and humanities in individual institiutions.
There are also opportunities to continue to maximise the input from the Northern Enterprise Consortium on the sustainability of the event.