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Opportunities and challenges of Commercialisation of Research Out of Social Science (CROSS)

Understanding the opportunities and challenges for CROSS is a valuable area of research for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  We were recently  invited by the ESRC to collaborate on an investigation of the current landscape for CROSS.  The investigation was led by Innovation Caucus Co-Investigator Dr Syahirah Abdul Rahman, who was the author of the report.  You can download the full report here.

By Dr Syahirah Abdul Rahman 

Our research feeds into the ESRC’s strategy of enabling pathways of social science research impact:
a key pathway being through the commercialisation route. Our study is a pilot study for a wider investigation into how best to support social scientists in commercialising their research. Dr Syahirah Abdul Rahman spoke with 20 experts in the field, including senior academics and knowledge exchange professionals, who are working directly with CROSS activities.

The key opportunities and challenges identified can be segregated into three main themes:

  1.   The issue of culture

Currently, commercialisation is not well understood among social scientists. The central challenge, and consequently a major opportunity, relates to promoting awareness of the purposes of commercialising research. Knowledge exchange professionals who have worked in this space explain that framing commercialisation as a means to sustain an academic’s research capacity beyond dependence on research grants often helps in spreading awareness of the need for commercialisation. Furthermore, social scientists have reported that the realisation that commercialisation can bring social impact has been instrumental in their engagement in CROSS.

  1.   Training for Early Career Researchers

Currently, the established pathway for an academic career is traditional, celebrating academic outputs and successes. Given the uncertainty and turbulence of academic careers in recent years, Early Career Researchers need to be empowered through their doctoral and post-doctoral training to understand various other pathways of research impact. There are also opportunities to create awareness among social scientists who are further along in their academic careers, of the need to be flexible in the training of their doctoral students. While academic outputs are incredibly important in establishing an academic career, Early Career Researchers must be aware of all of the options that are available to create impact using their research.

  1.   The importance of Support Staff

Our research finds that professional staff working in knowledge exchange and impact are key intermediaries in ensuring the success of CROSS activities. Support staff in this area have been instrumental in spreading awareness among social scientists of the different pathways for research impact, including that of commercialisation. Often, this is conducted experimentally, as CROSS is still a relatively new and growing area. There is an opportunity to provide capacity for support staff in CROSS; for example, through skills training that is uniquely focussed on the translation of social science research in a commercial space.

The Innovation Caucus is currently extending this research to further support the ESRC in identifying untapped opportunities and enabling support for CROSS. In September,  we began a new round of surveys, gathering insights from experts in this field on best practices that have enabled the successes of CROSS. We look forward to sharing our new findings with you soon.