NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Innovator Insights blog – Collaborate to innovate

In collaboration with Translation Manchester, Manchester BRC’s Innovator Training Scheme (ITS) aims to equip and inspire researchers to explore and develop impactful research alongside industry and commercial partners.

Continuing our Innovator Insights blog series, speakers from our collaborate to innovate session share their top tips on how researchers can manage successful collaborations with industry partners.

Dr Emma Stanmore, Reader in the Healthy Aging Research Group, The University of Manchester (UoM)

Companies have a wealth of business insight and staff that can benefit projects. Be open and clear on timescales. Often companies think we can publish research very quickly but, as academics, we know that it can often take up to a year for a paper to be submitted and published.

Flexibility on both ends is also really important when working with Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), so you need to be prepared to put the time and work differently to make this work.

Image shows Dr Emma Stanmore, Reader, The University of Manchester
Image shows Anil Day, Senior Lecturer, The University of Manchester

Anil Day, Senior Lecturer, MCF-Business Engagement Lead, School of Biological Sciences, UoM

Often the rate-limiting step is the first collaboration with a company. If contacted, you need to respond promptly to industry as their research priorities can change rapidly. Talk directly with the scientists involved and meet in person.

When discussing research projects, be aware of funds that support networking and small projects. These funds convert ideas resulting from industry-discussions into joint research projects and often long-term collaborations.

Catherine O’Neill, Professor of Translational Dermatology, UoM

Only work with people you like and on projects that are close to your heart or it won’t work. Spend time getting to know potential collaborators and put the time in to talk often early on. Find out what the company’s vision and aspirations for the project and help them understand your work fully.

A successful research collaboration can be hugely satisfying when you see your research applied to real-world issues.

Image shows Professor Catherine O'Neill, Professor of Translational Dermatology, The University of Manchester
Image shows Saq Rasul, Head of Integrated Business Engagement, Business Engagement and Knowledge Exchange, The University of Manchester

Saq Rasul, Head of Integrated Business Engagement, Business Engagement and Knowledge Exchange, UoM

Consultancy is an effective means of business engagement, sharing and applying your wealth of expertise in a way that benefits an external organisation. It can add value to existing research and teaching, as well as building external relationships and opportunities. Direct benefits can range from increasing impact, developing a new funding source, and follow-on projects.

Chris Hepworth, Business Engagement Manager, UoM Faculty of Biology, Medicine & Health

The main emphasis of my talk was to encourage you to ‘give it ago’, and to consider certain aspects if you wanted to collaborate with industry. Who are you already connected to and how good is your network? What might be interesting to business from your research? What have you got which industry may need? Where do you need business input? How can business help you further your research? What have they got what you need?

Image shows Chris Hepworth, Business Engagement Manager, UoM Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

If you have any feedback or questions about the programme, please contact Jane Crosbie, BRC Education and Training Coordinator via, or Colette Inkson, Innovation and Partnerships Manager, via