A £5 million investment from Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will help develop a new generation of business-aware researchers to further university-business collaboration in English universities.

The new business and entrepreneurial skills scheme aims to: increase the movement of researchers between universities and businesses; and improve employability routes and participation in business research and development.

It will focus on researchers who are in the early stages of their careers and help provide a bridge between research and deployment across the Technology Readiness Levels.

David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England, said: “I am delighted to support this initiative to equip our talented researchers in engaging with industry partners, putting into practice our ‘people and culture strategy’ commitment to encourage more movement and collaboration between academia and industry.

“Research England is grateful to the Chartered Association of Business Schools for bringing together an exciting partnership of universities, business schools and businesses to develop and deliver it.”

The project will support postgraduate and early career researchers (ECRs) to develop an improved awareness of the advantages of, and opportunities for, collaboration with businesses to address shared challenges.

They will also be supported to develop the competencies needed for effective identification of these opportunities and for confidently engaging with external organisations.

This will improve the cross-fertilisation of research and innovative thinking between academia and industry and support those embarking on research careers to capitalise on the potential for activities across the two domains.

Research England made the award to the University of Exeter through its Research England development fund. The project will be taken forward by a partnership of universities and others supported by the Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS) and a team based at the University of Exeter will work with business schools across the UK to create an innovative programme of support for researchers.

Vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, Professor Lisa Roberts, added: “We are delighted to be leading this important and exciting programme that will boost the business, management and entrepreneurial skills of researchers so that they can fully embrace the economic, social, environmental and commercial benefits of their work through collaborating with businesses and industry.

“The University of Exeter is committed to working ever more closely with business by allowing access to our capabilities, expertise and skills so that we can together overcome the challenges of the 21st Century, creating a sustainable, healthy and socially just future for all.”

The scheme will include four workstreams: Research into what already exists in this space, what is effective and where the gaps are; Development of a programme of activity that supports postgraduate and ECRs to build the competencies and mindsets necessary for effective cross-fertilisation of university-based research with industry-based activities; Multidisciplinary networking opportunities for postgraduate and early career researchers interested in engaging with industry; and a campaign to champion the advantages of enhanced collaboration between academia and industry. Specifically focusing on postgraduate and ECRs and businesses who have yet to embrace the potential for collaboration with those in higher education institutions.

The project is due to start in January 2023 and will run until January 2027.

Image copyright: Claus Ibsen