How To Gain Industry Experience While Studying For A Higher Degree

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Studentship Internships

Postgraduates have a number of pathways available to them when it comes to continuing their study, but a key consideration is often: should I stay in academia or start using my expertise in industry, commerce or in a not-for-profit organisation (delete where applicable)?

While academia is still the popular option (according to Research Councils UK, 43 per cent of its funded PhD students go into research roles across all sectors, while 26 per cent move into industry and commerce) there are a number of initiatives that now make the choice between academia and industry much less stark, and provide valuable opportunities for students to bridge that gap. 

CASE Studentships

Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering, or CASE, studentships, work slightly differently to studentships funded solely by a university or Research Council. As the title suggests, it is a collaboration between a UK research council and a non-academic organisation in either industry, government or the not-for-profit sector. Funding for doctoral study comes from both parties, and the researcher has the opportunity to work in situ for the non-academic partner, thus giving valuable insight and experience in the world of work as well as the potential to practically apply their research.

CASE studentships are not just offered in scienctific research. The AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council), for example, offers CASE awards (also known as Collaborative Doctoral Awards, or CDAs), providing opportunities for doctoral students to work in collaboration with institutions such as museums and other arts-based organisations.

Knowledge exchange initiatives

The transferral of academic discovery and innovation into industry practice is very much being championed by research councils and each has its own schemes and initiatives to promote knowledge exchange and help forge a career pathway for graduates and early-career researchers in industry. For example, an ESRC-funded scheme links together universities in the West Midlands with local businesses for mutually beneficial purposes. The EREBUS (Engaging Research for Business Transformation) initiative provides a number of opportunities for postgraduates to engage with local industry including CASE studentships and short-term work placements for doctoral students. It is one of a number of ‘capacity building clusters’ that the ESRC supports in bringing academic research into business. There are similar schemes operating across all of the research councils – check the relevant website for details.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme began in 1975 and brings together students, universities and organisations for research projects that benefit all of the parties involved. Graduates, who become KTP ‘associates’, undertake a project to benefit the participating organisation  in some way, such as improving a product or process, develop a marketing strategy or research new markets. The associate is supported by the higher education institution (aka the ‘knowledge base’).

In 60% of cases, associates are offered and accept a post in the host company on completion of a KTP project. The ‘knowledge base’ also benefits in the form of published research – therefore representing a win-win situation all round.

There are more than 1,100 associate projects running at any one time in the UK and hundreds of case studies of successful KTP projects, as well as opportunities to get involved in new projects, can be viewed at

For some inspiring stories of researchers who are impacting society in all kinds of ways, take a look at Research Councils UK’s publication ‘Impacts, People and Skills’, downloadable here:

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