Academic Engagement

Academic Engagement at Imperial


Universities are increasingly called upon to conduct research that has demonstrable impact. Scholarly work investigating this topic has so far focused on the most visible forms of commercialisation, such as licensing, and spin-off companies. While these activities are clearly important, less attention has been paid to other types of engagement, including collaborative research, consulting and contract research, even though they are relatively more common than the high-profile activities. Furthermore, there is even less work on whether and how collaborative engagement between academics and industry functions as a seedbed for spin-offs and licences.

Research Approach

With initial support from the EPSRC and European Commission, we have established a research project that will use Imperial College London as a site to explore the above issues. At the core of the project is the “TRIC” database that pools existing College records on the patenting and licensing of inventions, creation of spin-off businesses, collaboration with industrial partners, research grants and consulting activity to generate a detailed picture of academic engagement at Imperial in recent years. In addition, a survey amongst all Imperial academic staff was carried out in October 2011.


The project represents an opportunity to learn more about how universities contribute to wealth creation. Furthermore, the findings will enhance our understanding of how academic engagement contributes to the advancement of science and other aspects of university life. The results will be valuable for the wider community of policy-makers, university leaders and scholars studying universities and technology transfer.


In a recent study (Social valuation across audiences: The interplay between ability and identity judgements) published in the Academy of Management Journal, we explore how engagement with industry influences how scientists are seen within their own peer communities. We find that industry engagement usually bolsters academics’ standing in the eyes of their peers; this benefit will however be lost if involvement with industry becomes too high.

For more information about this work and previous outcomes, also read our  report  and paper.

Research Team

  • Dr Markus Perkmann, Head of the Department of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Dr Jan-Michael Ross, Assistant Professor
  • Cleo Silvestri, PhD Student
  • Sophia Lu, PhD Student

The team is based in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Department at Imperial College Business School where we have a vibrant programme that seeks to better understand the nature of academics’ collaboration with industry and other users.

Please refer to the  Frequently Asked Questions if you would like to know more about the treatment of your data, or any other aspect of our research.