Do you have a groundbreaking research idea that needs funding? Turn it into action by finding a partner for your research project. Every research project is different, but these tips will get you started.
1. Start by making a fireproof plan
Before hauling potential partners, make sure you know what you’re going to do. Ask yourself: is there a subject in my field that needs further research? How could I research it? Who should I market my work to and how?
Solveig Roschier, the social sciences director at Helsinki Innovation Services, prioritises seeking out something she calls “the innovation ecosystem”. This means identifying the companies who share the same needs and are working on solutions for similar problems as the researchers. That’s a good starting point for a successful cooperation.
Maarit Haataja, Head of Service at Helsinki University Impact and Business Collaboration Services for Researchers, reminds that companies and corporations operate in a different time frame from universities. Keep that in mind when planning your research project.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It’s okay to be a bit lost in the beginning, especially if it’s your first time looking for research partners in the business world. So start by taking baby steps. For example, Tekes organises low threshold networking events for researchers and companies. Maarit Haataja recommends chatting with someone from your faculty or just asking colleagues whether they know someone who could help you.
“Finding the right partners for your project and making your research appealing to a wider audience require know-how that isn’t automatic to everyone. Fortunately you can always learn more and eventually become a pro”, Solveig Roschier says.
3. Take advantage of research services
Both Haataja and Roschier warmly recommend Helsinki University Impact and Business Collaboration Services for Researchers. It is a service especially designed for researchers in need of a boost getting their research out there. The services include impact clinics, accelerators and courses on research funding and how to make use of your findings. Basically, all you need is an idea, and the clinic and accelerator will help you turn it into action.
“These services help you build a stronger network and collaborate with companies. They are especially useful for researchers who are trying to get funding for the first time”, Haataja says.
4. Listen carefully to what your partner needs
Looking for a partner company for a research project is like a business negotiation, Roschier says.
You as a researcher are selling your expertise and need to convince the company to buy it.
The idea of a sales pitch might seem weird, but think of it like this: if you stand behind your idea and think it can really improve the world somehow, others will too.
“The researcher and the company operate on an arena of needs. Both approach these needs from their own points of view. You have to understand your partner’s needs and perspectives, and communicate your own ones in that context”, Roschier says.
According to Haataja, mutual understanding leads to a win-win situation. She summarises it into one clear piece of advice: “Listen to what the companies have to say.”
5. Communicate as much as you can, as often as you can
Research projects usually last a few years. Once you’ve found the right partner, it is crucial to keep them actively informed and involved.
“Communication and interaction are key, both during and after a research project. The partner company should participate in planning the project as well”, Maarit Haataja says.
“No one wants to fund a project where both parties sign a contract and then retire to their own foxholes to work independently. You need to continually interact with the other and make sure both parties feel that they’re doing what they agreed to do”, Roschier says.
“Partnering up in a research project provides access to new ideas and breakthroughs, a large intellectual pool of competence and specialized consultancy. Cooperation with companies expands pre-competitive research and helps recruit bright young minds. These are things the researcher should communicate”, Haataja explains.