In light of the recent Wilson report which recommends that all postgraduate researchers and research staff have the opportunity to undertake work experience (such as an internship) outside higher education (HE), this is a timely review of the current landscape of interactions of UK-based researchers with businesses and other external organisations.
The report makes use of existing research evidence, information and expert inputs to address the extent and range of researcher-business interactions. It depicts a landscape that is evolving and possibly on the point of step change. Institutional knowledge exchange activities have offered a small minority of researchers the opportunity to interact deeply with businesses, through which some participants undoubtedly have derived much career and personal development benefit. However, engagement with businesses and external organisations in the form of a placement or exchange has remained distinctly for the minority.
Given the twin HE policy drivers of supporting innovation and optimising employability, and the Roberts agenda within HE research to support transferable skills and career development, a rise in the extent of participation in interactions with business by postgraduate researchers and research staff seems highly desirable. However, a cultural shift is required to enable progress. Wider recognition of the potential benefit to the researcher in participating in external interactions could increase demand, which in turn could result in such interactions becoming a more widespread, accepted and valued aspect of researcher development.
Vitae will be taking forward a project to develop a framework to enhance the learning gained from a placement/internship to support researchers undertaking interactions with businesses in the future.