Top in consultancy: Academe and business profit from expert help

February 3, 2006

Jessica Shepherd discovers the secrets of the money-spinners

Academics can boost their annual earnings by at least £120,000 through consultancy work, The Times Higher 's survey of the academic rich shows.

The highest earners are paid as much as £4,000 a day to share their engineering expertise, nanotechnology knowledge or business know-how with multinational firms.

Some, such as Lynda Gratton, London Business School's professor of management practice who is listed among our top-earners, charge fees of about Pounds 12,000 for public speaking appearances.

Others receive £5,000 a day or more to give "executive education" classes to corporations.

The majority of the money-spinners are scientists, engineers, technology experts or come from a clutch of business schools, where they juggle consultancy alongside teaching and research commitments. But increasingly, academics are finding other fields offer opportunities for consultancy.

Lecturers have been called on to advise on healthcare provision or disaster recovery in the aftermath of the Pakistan earthquake and the Asian tsunami.

Humanities lecturers may now top up their incomes with £500-a-day for an analysis of consumer trends. Shai Vyakarnam, director of Cambridge consultancy firm Transitions and teaching programme director at the Cambridge Entrepreneurship Centre, believes academic consultancy fees range considerably.

He said: "If we go to the top - professional consulting assignments in the more fashionable areas may earn individuals £4,000 a day or more. The big earners might make £80,000 to £120,000 in a good year.

Further down the food chain it might be more like £20,000 to Pounds 40,000."

Our list shows academics who have or have had high-earning consultancy work. It includes Rob Goffee, whose charge-out rate for public speaking has been cited as between £10,000 and £15,000, and George Yip, who has acted as a consultant for Pricewaterhouse-Coopers and many other major businesses. Our list was compiled by canvassing the views of more than 100 experts at universities and consultancy firms among other institutions. We have chosen not to include medics or lawyers because we wanted to concentrate on examples where consultancy work was an intrinsic part of academic life.

The successful academic consultants we spoke to cited the financial benefits as one of many advantages to consultancy work. Professor Yip, an expert in strategic and international management at London Business School, said: "Consultancy work is great for making contacts and has been valuable for my research. You learn from being engaged with business."

Professor Gratton said: "I would call what I do 'research with a very strong practitioner's orientation'. I'm in the business of writing and getting my ideas across and if you spend time with executives in the US and Europe, you are more likely to get your ideas across."

Paul Docx, chief executive of Imperial College London's consultancy subsidiary IC Consultants Ltd, believes British universities are moving towards a cautious recognition of the value of consultancy work to academe and business.

He said: "Academic consultants are now being perceived by industry as an undervalued resource."

jessica.shepherd@thes.co.uk

HOW TO GET AHEAD: TOP TIPS

A successful academic consultant will have excellent listening skills, problem-solving ability, no ego and focused creativity as distinct from random creativity.Stephen Allott, former consultant at McKinsey and ex-director of Development at Cambridge University Computer Laboratory

The best academic consultants balance two very different masters, university and client, and deliver to both. The best add real value to their clients and to their own role within the university. Gillian McFadzean, director of Technology and Research Services at Heriot-Watt University

The successful ones are those who are active in an area of research and are willing to see out ways of applying the results of their scientific research activities.
Paul Docx, chief executive of Imperial College Consultants Ltd

Academics need good listening skills to be successful consultants. A good contract is one where the scope of the work is fully understood and agreed by both the client and the consultant.
Mark Taylor, head of Business Innovation and Consulting at Isis Innovation, Oxford

The secret of a successful academic consultant is someone who understands the needs of business or public-sector engagement and is pretty clear about what they can and can't do.
Andy Neely, deputy director of the Advanced Institute of Management Research

The really successful academic consultants involve their juniors in their consultancy work to create long-lasting relationships.
Matt Schofield, head of client services in the technology team of the London Technology Network

A successful academic consultant is someone who has a particular area of expertise that can help to solve problems for industry and/or government.
Shai Vyakarnam, director of management consultancy firm Transitions

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