Helping social scientists realise the commercial potential of their research

Social science research

As part of the ASPECT (A Social Sciences Platform for Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Transformation) consortium, a pioneering collaboration between leading universities and businesses, our University is committed to developing the commercial potential of social sciences.

On 17 September, the University will host the first ASPECT commercialisation workshop, focusing on social sciences research and academic entrepreneurship, to develop a toolkit to help entrepreneurial academic staff realise their ambitions for applying their research in the market.

Technology Transfer and Commercialisation Managers from the consortium membership will exchange knowledge, experiences and ideas to begin the development of a toolkit, which will help research services, businesses and entrepreneurial academics attached to the consortium membership. The co-developed toolkit will potentially help identify intellectual property, and routes to market for social sciences research. We envisage the toolkit being available from mid 2020.

Led by the London School of Economics and Political Science, the ASPECT consortium includes the Universities of Manchester, Sussex, Sheffield, Cardiff, Glasgow and Oxford, funded in part by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund.

We have to think abstractly and creatively to find ways to capitalise to the important work our social scientists do and communicate that to business whilst supporting our academic staff to realise the commercial potential of their research.

Annie Thirlwell, Research Enterprise Manager, Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences

Annie Thirlwell, Research Enterprise Manager for Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences believes there is a huge amount of untapped potential in Social Sciences, she said: “Social sciences is inextricably linked to everything we do as people – the products we make, the services we create, the policy we develop is all human and user centred. Social sciences research is key to developing products and businesses that are sustainable. We have to think abstractly and creatively to find ways to capitalise to the important work our social scientists do and communicate that to business whilst supporting our academic staff to realise the commercial potential of their research.”

Commercialisation managers will discuss identification of intellectual property in social sciences research, commercialisation as a means of increasing impact, business models including social enterprise and case studies where Annie has worked with academics in social sciences to develop businesses.

A recent example includes Dr Dermot Breslin’s ‘Premonition’ software, which is being put into practice by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to help fire services plan for the future and optimise fire prevention strategies.

Professor James Wilsdon, Professor of Research Policy in the Faculty of Social Sciences, said: “Industrial strategy in an economy such as the UK’s, which is 79 per cent services, needs the social and behavioural sciences. As various reviews have highlighted, we need more social scientists to engage with commercial opportunities to apply their research. We need to do more to build alliances with the companies and sectors that rely on our expertise.”

If you’re a social scientist and wish to discuss your research and work through ways to increase its impact, sustainability and legacy, please contact Annie Thirwell: a.thirlwell@sheffield.ac.uk