Using Your Network to Establish Industry Connections

Competitive research grants aren’t getting any easier. The last time I looked, 10% of applicants had their grant funded. And generally, they are not even fully funded. Ask for $1, get $0.80.So, what can you do about that?

One way to address the problem is through finding and working with an industry partner. In my book, Connect The Docs, I go through the processes necessary to do just that.

Imagine if you spent the same time building an industry connection as you did write a grant….?

For a lot of academics, the idea of working with an industry partner is almost impossible to fathom. That could be for reasons that include academic freedom, industry “doesn’t fund” basic research, or “I just don’t like it”. Now, if you’re in those camps, you need to move on from that thinking. You need to stop getting in the way of your future success. The approach you have to industry engagement, would be like saying you’re not applying for competitive grants they are focusing on priority areas (limiting your academic freedom); they don’t find my research attractive (they don’t fund research like mine), or the process is too long (I just don’t like it).

If you’re able to move on from that mindset, read on. If not, this blog is not for you.

On to using your network to establish industry connections…

If you are reading this, you are connected to me in some way. And that might be your first point of contact with a future industry partner. You could simply look through my connections (e.g., on LinkedIn) and see if any looked interesting. See if any had an interest in the work you do or worked for an organisation with a connection to your work. Don’t forget, your research is as much about your methods, as it is about your results. I know of many academics who have established industry partnerships based on what they do, not what they have discovered.

If you’re not interested in working through my connections – then what about someone else’s? A current academic collaborator? A colleague down the hall? Social media friends, followers, and connections? Review those lists and reach out to people who might have a mutual interest (I have a few templates I can share too if you’re interested).

At this stage, knowing what you want is useful. As is knowing what you could do. You might even make up to one page of notes on those two topics. But you also need to be open minded. You need to leave space and time for the connection to suggest their preferred project. Or at least be open to a dialogue. In my opinion, the first goal of networking is to establish the connection. Only then can you start suggesting collaborative projects. If they are not interested in chatting or you are only interested in talking about yourself, then you probably won’t reach consensus on a collaborative project.

Then continue to nurture that connection. Just like you’d spend a few hours a week writing a grant, spend a few hours a week nurturing your industry connections. Send them an update. Ask them questions. Engage them in the research process and eventually, you’ll be able to talk about your specific research needs.

I hope this helps you fund your research.

“I have been reading through your book though and must say I am very impressed. You’ve put a lot of conscious thought into the things early career researchers are trying to do without any training or support, so it has opened my eyes to some of the things I have been doing without realising, and also some of the things I haven’t done but should have.”
Dr David Hocking, Research Fellow

Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He is a #pracademic and specialises in identifying and attracting industry partners for researchers. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping academics be commercially smart. His strategic approach to collaboration and research translation has been making the impossible possible for more than seven years.

To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email ([email protected]) or subscribe to the newsletter. You can find him on LinkedInTwitterInstagramFacebookResearchGateGoogle ScholarSpotifyYouTube, and Medium.