Andrew Goff, Head of Consulting Services at OUI, discusses how a more diverse range of academics than ever before are warming up to consultancy.
The pool of Oxford experts available for external organisations to dive into is deeper now than ever before.
No longer is consultancy seen as the exclusive preserve of senior science professors. Increasingly, we are approached by early career staff from across the University’s Divisions, eager to apply their expertise to client challenges and have their research make an early demonstrable impact on the wider world.
In July we produced a short video in which several of our consultants described first-hand what they had got out of their consultancies and why they choose to work through OUI. Dr Oliver Cox, a heritage expert from the Humanities Division, spoke powerfully about how consultancy provides him with an opportunity to think about academic research interests in a real-world context, saying that “Consultancy gives me that bridge into relevance.”
Meanwhile, Dr Adam Mead, Associate Professor of Haematology, said participating in advisory boards provides great opportunities to meet new people and for networking, adding that consultancy “has enhanced the science that I do and also the way that I look after my patients.”
Equally striking is how broad the range of clients is that we now work with. From SMEs and new spinouts to big pharma and multinationals; from charities and NGOs to the FCO and WHO; from law firms seeking expert opinion to video production companies seeking programme advisors – more organisations than ever before are queuing up to access Oxford expertise.
Our consultants see consultancy as about relationship-building and gaining new perspectives. In addition, while many are driven by the potential impact of consultancy, it can be a valuable source of income, both for the consultant and the University as a whole. Around a third of the contracts OUI Consulting Services signed this year have, or will, generate funds for the University.
Consultancy can, and does, lead to downstream opportunities for research partnership too. For instance, when Frances Platt, Professor of Pharmacology & Biochemistry, took on a consultancy role with Orphazyme, a Danish biopharmaceutical company, that work led directly to an eight-year collaborative funding stream including a Wellcome Trust Pathfinder grant.
This demand is reflected in our key metrics and speaks to the scale of our activities in Consulting Services, underlining another successful year for the team.