At the end of any research-industry collaboration, it’s important to reflect on the partnership, what worked well and what could be improved.  This is often the most neglected part of the collaboration because the work has (hopefully) been completed and the money spent. But before you head for the pub to celebrate, remember that to build a case for any future collaborative work, you’ll need to…

5. Measure your impact.

Just because this is the 5th and final post in this series doesn’t mean that this step is the least important. Nor should it be left to the end of the collaboration.  A simple way to ensure this vital step is taken is to establish your methods of measurement at the start of your project.

But what should be measured?  How do you create meaningful yardsticks with efficiency?

In Part 2, when founding your collaboration, I suggested that you should ask the following questions:

  • What does the company hope to achieve through the collaboration?
  • What does the research organisation seek to accomplish?
  • What problem are we seeking to solve?
  • Who are the end users / customers and how can we improve value for them?
  • What are our time and budget constraints and what is achievable within them?

In Part 3, I talked about establishing systems for monitoring your progress in answering these questions, in order to manage risk.

If you’ve followed this process, you should already have most of the data you need, so there’s no excuse for failing to measure the impact of your collaboration. Better still, your data will provide a view across the entire period of collaboration, not just of how it ended.  Projects rarely go smoothly to plan, so good data – with a little reflection and analysis – should tell the full, complex story of your collaborative experience and outcomes.

But who has time for stories?  Why bother investing time (no matter how little) in reflection and analysis?

There are three reasons:

  1. To help you improve as an individual professional. It’s a fantastic opportunity for personal growth, as many lessons learnt from collaboration will serve you well in future.
  2. To help both organisations improve. Whether it’s the first time you have collaborated with another party, or the hundredth, there is always room for improvement.
  3. To demonstrate the value of the collaboration. You will be much more likely to succeed in establishing a future collaboration on another exciting project if you have documented, compelling evidence about the success of your previous work.

But the data itself is not enough.  The way you present it can be even more important.  I recommend a single page summary, addressing the following:

  • The objectives of the project. What did you do, and why?
  • The key findings. What did you discover?
  • The outcomes. So what? Did you achieve your objectives? What has changed as a result of your work? How does it benefit customers / end users? Is there an economic benefit, or do you have new information or capability that will lead to future economic gain?

For example, I was involved in a project where we were developing a new medical device.  We worked closely with a university to develop a test to measure the susceptibility of the design to infection.  The test influenced the design and after a period of monitoring, a reduced rate of infection was observed.  This was a great outcome for our customers, helping to justify ongoing collaboration.

Research can be a satisfying and worthwhile career, but it’s even more rewarding when the benefit to society is clear. Collaboration with industry is a highly effective way to convert research outcomes into public benefit.  I hope these blogs have been a practical guide in encouraging research-industry collaboration and helping it to run smoothly and successfully. I’d love to have your feedback and learn about your experiences in research-industry partnerships.

Background

To build research-industry partnerships for successful technology transfer, Step 1 is to develop a culture and practices that promote partnership, Step 2 is to build a strong foundation for your partnership, Step 3 is to manage risk and Step 4 is to use your team to best effect.

James Dalton

With an engineering background, James combines strategic marketing mastery and product development expertise, derived from decades of experience with leading global companies, especially Cochlear. In 2010, he won the Engineers Australia Design Excellence Award and the Red Dot Award for Product Design. He is named as the inventor on six patents. His current role as Commercialisation Manager with gemaker is to support diverse clients – researchers, inventors, startups and expanding businesses – through the many stages of commercialisation, including idea validation and protection, industry engagement, funding acquisition, product development, and marketing.