London's leading universities on how their consultancy arms are working with industry and governments to provide access to specialist expertise and facilities in a practical, focused and convenient way

By Andreas Ballis, Imperial Consultants, Bjorn Christianson, UCL Consultants, and Michael Hill-King, King’s College London

Consulting by academics has evolved over the last twenty years as a powerful and sophisticated mechanism of the knowledge-driven economy. Collaboration between industry and academia for R&D and the commercialisation of university-based innovation through technology transfer have also increased and are globally significant. However, consultancy has developed as an important practical driving force for innovation by providing external partners with access to cutting-edge research, expertise, and facilities in a focused and convenient way.

Nearly all world-leading academic institutions are enabling the expertise of academics to reach society and create a competitive advantage for the economy through consulting. Indeed this vibrant sector contributed around an estimated £400m or more to the British economy in the 2012-13 academic year1.

Over the years, the impact of consulting from British universities on the medicine and healthcare sectors has been profound.  World leading academics at Imperial College London have delivered many solutions to global healthcare challenges through the College’s consulting company, Imperial Consultants (ICON).  For example, a team of consultants from the School of Public Health have provided a leading healthcare information, services and technology company with crucial knowledge on the adoption, governance and regulatory landscape of electronic medical records in order to identify efficient approaches for their use to improve global healthcare system performance.

British academics have also provided many government bodies with advice on effective policies. For example, an academic from King’s College London provided knowledge and expertise on addiction in order to lead an independent panel of experts to make recommendations to the Government on their drug driving policy.

Accelerating innovation and boosting the efficiency of industry is another major area of direct impact that has been delivered by academics acting as consultants. The application of world-leading expertise to problems arising at the heart of R&D and manufacturing teams has a tangible impact on innovation. For example, UCL’s London Implant Retrieval Centre has helped orthopaedic manufacturers refine their hip replacement products. Through a combination of access to the Centre’s cutting-edge facilities for detailed analysis of retrieved implants, and the expert advice and synthesis of the Centre’s team of orthopaedic surgeons and biomedical engineers, manufacturers gain critical design insights to ensure improved clinical outcomes in successive product generations.

Industrial clients find that consulting opens doors to new technologies, offers effective strategic advice and accelerates development. The benefits are reaching both large corporations as well as the rich ecosystem of SMEs and start-ups. The higher education sector accounted for 28.9% of the UK’s entire gross domestic expenditure on R&D in 20132. Consulting by academics allows companies to effectively leverage this R&D into their own businesses.

University-based consulting firms help academics to develop relationships and find opportunities to apply their expertise to current problems in industry and beyond.  Additionally, they help the external partners to scope the needs of their consulting project and provide the commercial expertise required to successfully integrate the academic input. From these projects, academics gain further perspectives on the problems that matter to policy-makers, industry, and the world today, enabling them to focus their research on areas that will create major impact and bring about change.

London is home to some of the top universities in the world. Imperial College London, University College London and King’s College London are working closely with MedCity to mobilise the expertise of their globally unique academic thought leaders, as well as their top-tier research facilities to establish the region as a world leading life science innovation hub.

For more information on how to access the cutting-edge expertise of world-renowned academics in London, please contact:

Andreas Ballis (a.ballis@imperial.ac.uk), Imperial Consultants (ICON) – Imperial College London

Bjorn Christianson (info@uclconsultants.com), UCL Consultants – UCL

Michael Hill-King (michael.hill-king@kcl.ac.uk), Partnerships & Consultancy – King’s College London

1: “The Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE BCI) survey”, HEFCE, http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2014/201410/

2: “UK Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development, 2013”, ONS, http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/rdit1/gross-domestic-expenditure-on-research-and-development/2013/stb-gerd-2013.html#tab-Expenditure-on-R-D-Performed-in-the-UK