A Guide to Working with Research Organisations

Before embarking on a journey to work with or access knowledge from a Research Performing Organisation (RPO), such as a University, Institute of Technology or State research organisation, it is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve from the engagement. It is also important to have a good understanding of the expertise and potential value of the institution’s input.

The impact of working with an RPO could include new product development, product improvement or process improvement. Each of these should have a positive impact on the competitiveness of your company.

There are a number of ways for you to engage with one of Ireland's RPOs, for example: to gain access to specialist equipment; to license existing knowledge (developed technologies, processes or innovations), usually from State-funded research; to access knowledge and people through collaborative research contracts, research consultancy or people exchange programmes.

Whichever route you choose, it is important that you agree clear objectives with your RPO partner at the start of the programme. These objectives may include:·

  • Programme of work, including realistic delivery times
  • Milestones
  • Fees
  • Intellectual property ownership   
  • Roles and responsibilities

One person in your company should take responsibility for project managing the programme. This person should also take responsibility for managing the relationship between your company and the RPO project team.

There is the potential to get out of the programme much more than you put in.

Types of Research Engagement

Collaborative research 

May involve one industry partner and one RPO (bilateral) or multiple industry partners and RPOs pursuing a shared research agenda (multilateral/multiparty).

In both cases, the State contributes part of the programme funding with the balance funded by the industry partner(s).

Examples include the Innovation Partnership Programme (EI), Technology Centre Programme (EI/IDA) and the Research Centre Programme (SFI).


Benefiting from consultancy advice from a researcher or research institution should be treated as a commercial arrangement to access knowledge, skills and know-how. 

State support under the Innovation Voucher Programme (EI) is available if you meet specific criteria.

Contract research 

When a company has an immediate need for specific knowledge and requires a solution quickly. In this case, the industry partner provides 100% of the programme cost.


Provides a way to access technology and intellectual property from the RPO. Through a commercial contract,  the company (licensee) gains the right to make, have-made, use and sell a particular asset. This may be exclusive or non-exclusive. Licences often arise from collaborative or contract research programmes. Licences may also be taken to discrete IP.  

People exchange programmes 

These provide opportunities for academic-industry personnel exchange i.e. an academic goes to work in a commercial setting and vice versa. Examples include the Employment Based Postgraduate Programme from the Irish Research Council (IRC), the SFI Industry Fellowship Programme and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (EU).