What is it?

The provision of expert advice to external clients by university staff, normally for payment. One of the principal mechanisms by which universities transfer knowledge – offering a specialist opinion, advising on technical issues and problem-solving. Managed, a contract negotiated, cost/price and paid to the academic by the university.


Unlike research, consultancy does not have as its prime purpose the generation of new knowledge. May be carried out by academic or non-academic staff such as senior university managers or administrative/support staff. Examples include acquiring technical solutions to specific business problems, expert advice, evaluation and reports on technical, business or market-related issues or development of bespoke training programmes.


Very short 0-3 months or short 0-18 months.


It is costed/priced by the institution for a fee negotiated between the consultant (or the institution) and the client. It depends on the scale of work that is required. It will cover academic time in providing expert advice, access to equipment, use of software, insurance, project management and contracting. Government support may be available through Innovation Vouchers.


Consultancy most beneficial when the business needs to access specialist expertise that is not available in-house. It can provide solutions and input to issues often at a relatively low cost and in a short timeframe. Consultancy relationships often lead to further engagement between the business/university as both parties become aware of each other’s expertise and how this can be developed in a mutually beneficial way.

Suitable for which Businesses?

All businesses regardless of size. Non-commercial, public sector organizations, charities actively engage in consultancy with universities. These are short-term contracts and therefore it is normal for only a few individuals from the business to be involved.

How do you engage?

Once a specific need and the type of expertise required by a business is identified, they should contact an appropriate University. The University will then determine if there is a suitable academic with which the business could discuss their specific needs. Universities have offices with responsibility for consultancy contracts. If a business knows academics with the expertise that they require, it is possible to approach them directly. Usually the academic will have to liaise with the University office in agreeing to the consultancy contract. Consultancy contracts agreed through the University normally include insurance which helps to protect the business.