4 key elements for a successful business collaboration negotiation

By now you know that business collaboration entails a long list of benefits for both the researcher and the company. But how do you negotiate a satisfying contract between the two parties? Get started with these tips.

1. Know what you offer

If you as a researcher approach a company, prepare for the negotiation by thinking about what you have to offer, advices Heidi Kinnunen, Senior Advisor at Helsinki University Business Collaboration Services for Researchers.

“Use your researcher’s point of view. What is the best product I can sell with the best price? Is it a customized research project, research collaboration or something else?”

When you’ve arrived at a conclusion of the best option for the company in question, make them an offer. If they reject your proposal, always be prepared to present a plan B. Maybe the answer is a collaboration built on teaching or consulting the company on your field of expertise?

Sometimes companies don’t like to engage in long-term collaborations and prefer to take things one step a time. In these cases think in smaller terms. For example do you have a student that could do their Master’s thesis for the company?

“Trust is built gradually”, Kinnunen reminds.

2. Plan your pricing

Now that you know what to offer to your potential company collaborator, you need to think about numbers.

You want your research to have a competitive market price. If you have trouble in pricing ask for help from the financial controller of your department.

In addition to salaries the price of the project should include property rents, materials and facilities needed for the research.

“The university can’t do unprofitable business. Researchers shouldn’t underprice their work”, Heidi Kinnunen says.

3. Communicate the profits of the collaboration to the company

Collaborating with the science world can be very profitable for business. Make sure the company understands it.

The obvious benefit that a company gets from research collaboration is information. Obtaining information that is based on research is a competitive advantage and can help the company to improve their product development, for example.

But that is just one part of the deal.

Collaborating with a researcher gives the company access to the university’s broad research infrastructure. This infrastructure entails the university’s research instruments, facilities, material databases, archives and data networks.

The collaboration allows companies to get to know the university’s researchers and students and this way they might even find new employees.

4. Know where to turn for help

Feeling motivated to start negotiating with a potential collaborator? Excellent! If you need support in the negotiations don’t hesitate to turn to the Business Collaboration team at the University of Helsinki. You can even get somebody to tag along in your meetings with a company.

“Remember that collaboration always starts with a conversation between the parties. That’s where you begin to understand the research interests of the other side and can tailor the best way to proceed with your project”, says Maarit Haataja, Head of Service at Helsinki University Business Collaboration Services for Researchers.


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