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You know your research is industry-relevant. You know that Mitacs programs can support industry-academia collaborations. But you may not know where to find a partner for your research.
We asked Jean-Philippe (JP) Valois, a Mitacs Business Development representative based in Montreal, for advice. He works with hundreds of grad students, postdocs, professors, and companies, all looking to collaborate on innovative research in their fields. JP provided five steps to help you identify the right companies to contact and how to reach out successfully:
1. Identify local companies
Search the Mitacs database of projects seeking interns or our projects database to learn which companies are working in your discipline and province. Check company databases or industry associations in your region.
“Run a search on job websites for companies looking for your expertise; target those looking for people with advanced degrees.”
2. Find your value proposition
Identify what makes you a unique and attractive candidate for the proposed organization. Remember to tailor it for your recipient: focus on their goals and what makes you the person who can help achieve them.
“Show a company how working with you will improve their products or processes, how they’ll save money, or be more efficient. Suggest a specific project if you can,” JP suggests. “Read innovation news and follow industry trends, and you’ll find out what their challenges are.”
3. Start networking
Put your social media and personal networks to work: follow companies on LinkedIn and canvass friends, colleagues, and family — you never know who could have a lead. Attend networking events and Meetups hosted by industry groups.
“There are interest groups in every domain; show up and engage in conversation. Bring business cards and follow up, something will happen.” JP advises. “Oh, and update your LinkedIn profile!”
4. Reach out
Take time to prepare and practice what you’ll say, using tangible examples that showcase your potential. Take the first opportunity to listen proactively and offer feedback and solutions if the conversation allows. Start by sending a short introductory email that focuses on how you can benefit the company.
JP says that this initial communication plays a critical role, so it’s important to keep your message short: “An email that is well targeted, clear, concise, and to the point will show that you’re motivated and have done your research; the right partner will recognize its value. Follow up once or twice if you don’t get an answer, but don’t insist. It may take time and luck — keep trying!”
5. Contact Mitacs
Once a potential industry partner has expressed interest, contact a Mitacs representative in your region. Each representative understands industry research needs and the local climate. They can help you develop your research project and find Mitacs matching funds and other opportunities to strengthen your collaboration with a partner.
“Talk to us! We could have ideas that you might not have considered or even known about and we want to make your research collaborations succeed.”