EIRA Quick Guide: Enabling Industry Funding
This guide will highlight the basic fundamentals and some important tips about gaining industry funding. The aim is to help you know where to start when looking bridge the gap between your research and a funding source.
It will cover the best practice on how to prepare yourself to get a funding bid – from initiating meetings and following through with the funding request.
Why would industry choose to fund your research?
It is important to identify what your research can offer in return for funding in order to have the best pitch possible.
What can you provide?
- Access to research cutting edge research and/or facilities
- An inexpensive way to explore new ideas and stay informed about latest trends
- Highly educated, good value human resources
- Publishing/patenting potential
- A mechanism for recruiting scientists
- A form of advertisement/sponsorship
What problem will you solve?
This is sometimes referred to as ‘The ‘hook’; you need to answer the question ‘why should we fund you?’ before it has even been asked.
What is your USP?
- Will your research drive a new/novel approach?
- Will you make fresh connections or analyse data in new ways?
- Make the development or production of product/services faster, cheaper?
Timing is crucial
It is worth noting that securing industry funding for very early stage projects is difficult because industry often looks for later stage technologies to support. Therefore you may need to bring promising projects to the point that they could be considered for collaborations.
Traits a researcher should have to get funding
- The ability to talk and write clearly
The common complaint about scientists is that they struggle to explain what they do in an accessible way. You need to be articulate about technically detailed information, but you also need to write and speak in a way that can help your audience understand what you’re doing.
- The power of persuasion
This means being able to not only talk and write about science, but also to persuade someone else that you’re heading in the right direction. It’s salesmanship backed up with facts.
- Leadership skills
A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Develop strengths and mitigate weaknesses, be supportive, critique when needed and praise accomplishments, remain humble and orient goals.
Different forms of University-Industry partnerships
There are multiple form of university industry partnership, examples of which include:
- PhD studentship/Internship
Identify a shared goal and provide supervision for a budding scientist to investigate new ideas.
- KTP Partnership
Form a three-way partnership between industry, institution and UK government to sponsor an early-years researcher.
- Contract research/Consultancy
Use the expertise of established researchers to respond to particular questions.
- Jointly funded research collaboration
Developing a close working relationship with a research group, exchanging people and ideas. Access funding sources through the likes of Innovate UK.
Taking University IP and developing it further. You can find out more about IP and licensing in our Enabling Commercialisation guide.
Arrange a meeting
Inform business development
Agree on project aims
Ensure all parties are on board with aims
Agree level of support
Cash? In Kind? Or a mix?
Sign any legal documentation required
Liaise with your legal team first
Set outlines, outputs and timelines
Communication is key!
Agree review process
These will be important milestones to check in with parties
Three pillars of – The Initial Meeting
1. Plan ahead
Do your homework. Who you are meeting? Have you booked a room and catering? Sent a diary invite?
Be clear on what you want to convey
Prepare a one-sider summary
Look out a business card and any useful brochures/reports/research papers
Prepare 2-3 key questions. Also, what are the 2-3 questions you might need to be prepared for from them?
Practice your ‘pitch’. Fail to prepare – prepare to fail!
2. Use your time wisely, it runs out fast
Don’t wade through lots of slides, this can really damage your chances of funding and is a common mistake by academics
Pick 1-2 ‘killer’ slides to bring as back-up
It is MUCH better to have a conversation rather than a one-sided pitch
Use accessible language
Ensure you keep to time
3. Put yourself in their shoes
Tell them what you want
Tell them what you can deliver
Explain why it meets their needs
Be prepared to agree/action next steps