Research Consultancy Programme

REALab creates collaborative opportunities for academic researchers and business partners to co-design solutions for real-world business challenges and social impact.

REAlab is a project-based training program that trains socially responsible researchers in the skills necessary to tackle real-world challenges in collaboration with public, private and non-profits organisations looking to create positive social impact.

Working closely with leaders from business and cultural organisations, PhD Consultants will make use of analytical, creative problem solving, project management and communication skills to solve problems in education, health, sustainable development, inclusive culture, technology ethics, cultural heritage and more.

Researchers work on projects part-time, collaborating with peers and partners at national and international level, in a hybrid environment, with the support of experienced trainers and coaches to deliver high-quality academic and project management work.

The Process



Analytical thinking to understand the problem and the challenges faced by business partners and their stakeholders.



Creative thinking to ideate possible solutions which are innovative, feasible and fit to the users’ needs.



Engage partners in the project design process and build on their feedback to finesse a solution model that responds to the challenge.



Sound Project Management to deliver the co-designed plan and deliver results on which partners can build to effect the desired change.

Benefits for Researchers

Within an interdisciplinary team-work environment, the programme offers postgraduate and early career researchers the opportunity to:

  • Receive professional training and coaching for each stage of the process, from project design to project management, partnership development, interdisciplinary team work and impact communication.
  • Work in a hybrid environment as part of a multi-sector project team and learn how to work efficiently using cloud-based collaborative tools.
  • Manage a project throughout its full life-cycle, from initiation to delivery, evaluation and communication of impact, with the support of professional tools and processes.
  • Build your profile as Research Consultant and complete a real-world 70-hour paid consultancy project that can serve as a pilot for future consultancy projects.
  • Work on the programme on a part -time basis, alongside your PhD.
  • Get professional support to effectively design, project manage and communicate your project work.

How it works

The programme is committed to social responsibility by creating opportunities for new academic research to engage with current societal challenges and create positive change towards cultural engagement, better health, environmental sustainability and inclusion.  

Read more about previous projects and how they benefitted partners and researchers.

Project Case Studies

The programme includes a series of training workshops to develop essential skills in project design, project management, collaboration and consultancy skills that are then applied to a real business project which is delivered part time, with full coaching support until delivery of the final results to the partner.

Since 2014, REAlab has collaborated with Doctoral Training Partnerships and Universities to offer researchers the opportunity to access high-quality professional training, engage in Knowledge Exchange and develop their profile as engaging researchers and research consultants.

On project completion, research consultancy teams have the opportunity to enter a final Award competition that recognises excellence in research collaboration and engagement. See recent awards here.

What Researchers say

This was a fantastic opportunity and something I had always want to do, so thank you for organising this! It combined my research skills with the business world, and this training came at a perfect moment in my postdoctoral fellowship. It has helped me think about the impact of my work and its relevance to contemporary politics, but has also given me some very precious experience working with a business partner.

Dr Charlotte Faucher
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in History, University of Manchester

I loved being part of the programme, and I would definitely recommend fellow researchers to take part. This was an excellent opportunity to meet other researchers, enhance skills (and learn new ones), and use my research skills to support a local business, which I believe is extremely important, as I think research needs to be able to translate into the real world, and provide solutions to real-life problems. The coaching received during the programme was extremely useful and the level of skills and knowledge shown by the coaches was very high. I felt the feedback was constructive, clean and directed to improve our work.

Andreina Carrillo Espinoza
Global Development Institute, University Of Manchester

Participating in this programme was a fantastic experience. Being part of a highly interdisciplinary team, I benefited from being exposed to a variety of methodologies, learning from all my teammates and developing new skills along the way. This experience was extremely enriching for my personal and professional development and I would highly recommend this programme to all PhD students.

Marta Riccardi
School of Arts, University Of Liverpool

The programme is a great chance to step outside what can be a bubble of academia, but also a chance to see that your skills are valuable, even in settings which you wouldn’t immediately link. I’ve benefitted from the training which has improved my ability to communicate research with a business audience. Finally, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working in an interdisciplinary team – I’ve learnt a lot from my team mates, and equally learnt about my own working style and role within a group.

Alina McLellan
School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, The University of Manchester

The relationship between the business and academic worlds is complicated, with mutual scepticism and distrust commonplace, so this was a great opportunity to learn more about how they don’t have to be so far apart and can indeed form a mutually beneficial symbiosis. In an uncertain world we all want to keep as many doors open as possible, and the programme’s coaches were very supportive in suggesting future work pathways and approaching the research consultancy work you do in a way that can be built upon in the future. Sharing skills and gaining knowledge is ultimately what academia is all about, and Knowledge Exchange is about broadening one’s horizons regarding how far this can go.

Jack Adler-McKean
Music Composition, Royal Northern College of Music 

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