Collaboration Lab: PhD Research Consultancy Programme

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

Collaboration Lab is a project-based training program that since 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 researchers make use of analytical, creative problem solving, project management and communication skills to develop research solutions to challenges in education, health, sustainable development, inclusive culture, technology ethics, cultural heritage and more.

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 research users’ needs.



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



Sound Project Management to 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 Knowledge Exchange process, from project design to project management, partnership development, interdisciplinary team work and communication.
  • 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 paid consultancy project that can serve as a pilot for future consultancy and Knowledge Exchange projects.
  • Get professional support to effectively design, project manage and communicate your project work.

The programme

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.

The Collaboration Labs 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.  

The programme includes a series of training workshops to develop essential skills in project design, project management, collaboration and consultancy skills that are applied to a real research consultancy project, with coaching support until delivery of the final results to the partner.


Projects completed as part of the programme have received prizes and recognition for their quality and impact, as well as featured in a variety of media and public engagement events, for example:

  • Research with Manchester Urban Diggers on food sustainability engaged with local community groups as part of the 2021 Festival of Social Sciences, and was one of four projects selected out of hundreds of events across the country to feature on their website and in the Festival’s video.
  • Research into the barriers faced Black Professional Women in their career progression in the UK in collaboration with She Leads for Legacy won a Commended Award for Social Responsibility as part of the Making a Difference Awards 2021 competition at the University of Manchester. The project resulted in a public report, engagement workshops and a video documentary, as part of the 2021 Festival of Social Science.
  • Research with SENDCode, a social enterprise supporting young autistic people, which created a first of a kind, neurodiverse-friendly tool for evaluating the efficacy of support services for people with autism, won the University of Manchester’s Project Excellence Award in 2021 for the far-reaching impact on the partner and the community.
  • Research on climate change activism with Envirolution was presented at the Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN) conference, later resulting into a book chapter for an academic publication exploring the role of activism in fighting  climate change. The project also won the University of Manchester’s Project Excellence Award in 2020.
  • The Arts after Brexit project by Dr. Charlotte Faucher in collaboration with Tom Fleming Consulting, which explored the effects of Brexit on the UK cultural and creative sector, featured in the Guardian and many other national and international news outlets, before being reworked into academic journal articles, the latest of which published on the International Journal of Cultural Policy.
  • Jaime García-Iglesias’ project with LGBT Foundation which explored the challenges and opportunities of online delivery of sexual health services during Covid 19, resulted into a policy report disseminated via the partner’s website and public engagement events with UK-wide policymakers working in HIV and sexual health. The project won a Highly Commended Award for Social Responsibility in the Category “Benefit To Society by Research (Emerging Impact – Student)” as part of the Making a Difference Awards competition at the University of Manchester in 2020. The project also won the University of Manchester’s Project Excellence Award in the same year.

Project Case Studies

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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