Consultancy

Consultancy is the provision of expert advice, analysis and interpretation by academic staff to external clients in order to address specific questions or problems. Members of academic staff are encouraged to undertake up to 35 days of consultancy each year. Further information on eligibility and renumeration are available on the HR website.

What is consultancy?
  • Consultancy can cover things like helping a company to solve a business problem or IT problem, or a request for your particular expertise to review papers, proposals etc. In general consultancy work has a defined outcome, which the company pays you to deliver, but which could not reasonably be described as a research project. It includes, but is not limited to, the provision of:
    • Strategic advice
    • Expert witness services
    • Feasibility studies
    • Product development
    • Interpretation/analysis
  • Consultancy involves a high degree of intellectual transfer from the consultant to the client. It differs from research collaboration in that it involves the application of existing specialist knowledge to the particular needs of a client and does not, ordinarily, generate new knowledge.
  • Consultancy is undertaken on an individual basis and usually relates to short term projects, of a few days to a few months duration.
  • As consultancy is a commercial activity, the client would ordinarily expect to own the results of the consultancy project.

What are the benefits of consultancy?

  • Consultancy raises the profile of both the academic and the University.
  • Consultancy is a way of establishing links with industry, commerce and government, which can lead to impact, as well as potential benefits to both the academic and the University over the medium to long term, e.g. funded research collaborations.
  • Applying skills/expertise in a different way can lead to new perspectives and ideas.
  • Consultancy is a source of additional income for the academic or their department.
University Consultancy or Private Consultancy?

University Consultancy: contracts are between the University and the organisation. You are covered by University insurance and any claims would be against the University and not you. Consultants can chose to have the funding paid to a departmental account or into salary (after deduction of an appropriate overhead). Each consultant can chose a different payment method. Academic staff therefore benefit from the following support:

  • Indemnity insurance
  • Contract negotiation (including protection of IP rights)
  • Financial administration

Private Consultancy: contracts are between the consultant and the organisation. You need to arrange your own insurance and tax/accounting. Academic staff must not use University or departmental name, resources, services or facilities (other than minimal use of library and departmental administrative facilities as agreed with your Head of Department), and no item may be purchased or otherwise obtained via University or department systems. Minimal use can be defined as:

  • Use of the University library information resources and collections, but not use of the document supply service
  • Moderate use of University stationery
  • Moderate use of University computing services, but not use of University computing facilities to run lengthy programs
University Consultancy process

Stage 1: Project initiation

  • Identification of consultancy opportunity: Consultancy projects are usually identified by individuals via their own contacts with industry, commerce or government. However, projects may also be client-led, through enquiries by organisations seeking access to University expertise. An informal discussion with Research Services at this early stage may be useful in identifying any potential issues and clarifying next steps.
  • Costing and Proposal Form: You will need to complete an online Costing and Proposal Form. It is important that you provide a clear but concise description of the proposed project together with the information needed to accurately cost the project. Research Services will confirm receipt of your submission by email.

Complete the Costing and Proposal Form

  • Client contracts: In some instances, as a result of early discussions with the client, they may have provided you with a contract. We will review any such client-issued contract if the contract value is over £10,000. You should forward this to ri-contracts@sheffield.ac.uk to ensure that the client's terms and conditions are acceptable. Work less than £10,000 must be undertaken using the University standard consultancy terms and conditions.

Stage 2: Project approval

  • Budget approval: Based on the information in the Costing and Proposal Form, we will send you a budget proposal form. This will need to be approved by you and your Head of Department. In doing so, each of you will be agreeing (i) the proposed budget (ii) that the proposed consultancy will not commit the University to any additional costs (iii) that the consultancy will be carried out in accordance with HR guidelines. In addition, your Head of Department will be agreeing to you undertaking the consultancy (this a requirement of all consultancy by University staff).
  • Consideration of indemnity, IP, controversy and conflict of interest: We will consider indemnity, IP, controversy and conflicts of interest relating to the proposed activity, and liaise with other professional services in ensuring that both you and the University are appropriately protected. In particular, consideration will be given to whether:
    • The proposed project involves activities that are not be covered by the University's existing insurance. The costs of special insurance may need to be added to the project costs.
    • Special arrangements are needed in respect of IP; any IP arising from consultancy contracts is ordinarily owned by the client.
    • Any elements of the proposed project may be considered controversial and thereby pose a risk to your reputation or that of the University.
    • There are any conflicts of interest which may, or appear to, impair the independence of your consultancy.
    • If the any of the above apply, we will advise you accordingly.
  • Negotiation and agreement of consultancy contract: We will prepare a University contract for the project, based on the information you provided in the Consultancy Costing & Proposal Form and the agreed budget. In some instances, the client will prefer to use their own contract. We will review any such client-issued contract if the contract value is over £10,000. Work less than £10,000 must be undertaken using the University standard consultancy terms and conditions. It is important to note that:
    • As the University's standard contract includes standard terms and conditions, we will ordinarily be able to generate a contract and progress to 'sign off' quickly.
    • As client contracts may include non-standard terms and conditions, they will require detailed scrutiny and may necessitate negotiation between you, the client and Research Services. The terms that frequently require discussion are those relating to ownership and access to existing IP, confidentiality, publication, insurance and warranties and termination. This may delay the agreement of the consultancy contract and thereby the start of the project.
    • In either case, we will ensure that the contract reflects the agreed budget and covers the contractual issues described above.
  • Consultancy contract sign-off: We will send the agreed contract to the client, and an authorised member of Research Services will act as signatory for the University. Once the contract has been signed off by both the University and the client, the project can start.

Stage 3: Project completion

  • Project start: When the contract has been signed off by both the University and the client, the project can start. Work must not begin prior to this as, in the absence of a signed contract, there is no formal agreement to pay the agreed fee. Additionally, you and the University may be exposed to financial and/or reputational risk should problems arise.
  • Invoicing of client: The contract will include an invoicing schedule against which University Finance will issue invoices to the client. Ad hoc invoices may also be raised against additional agreed activity/expenditure, if necessary via an invoice request form. If no set payment schedules are included then invoicing will be carried out upon completion of the work.

Request an invoice

  • Project closure: Once you have completed the consultancy work, you will need to complete an invoice request form. Any outstanding costs will then be invoiced and the project will be formally closed.
Private Consultancy process

When consultancy is undertaken privately, the contract with a third party is outside of your contract of employment with the University. In order to comply with the Financial Directives and the Consultancy/External Activity Guidelines, the following procedures must be adhered to:

  1. Complete the Private Consultancy Approval Form. Any private consultancy constitutes part of the 35 days of consultancy activity that academic staff are permitted to undertake, therefore you are obliged to seek approval from your Head of Department. In the case of Head of Departments, approval should be sought from your Head of Faculty.
  2. Once the Private Consultancy Approval form has been completed and signed, it should be sent to Research Services, along with a copy of your professional indemnity insurance certificate. We will use this information to ensure that an accurate record of your consultancy is maintained.

How much should I charge for consultancy?

Consultancy is the provision of expert services to an organisation and the fees charged should reflect this. They should cover the cost of staff time and the background knowledge and expertise that will be brought to the project.

The calculator below provides the University's agreed starting day rate, the market you are operating in may bear a higher fee and you are therefore encouraged to charge more where appropriate. VAT will also be charged in addition to the day rate.

Who to contact

Please contact the help desk on 0114 22 27444 or ri-contracts@sheffield.ac.uk with new enquiries. 

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