Building a network of researchers and potential research users is essential in facilitating knowledge exchange. If you do not already have an established network, you can grow your network by:
- attending business and policy events – many university research offices arrange workshops and seminars and the cost can be minimal
- joining a networking group affiliated to a professional association that mirrors any academic special interest groups that you are already a member of
- talking to established researchers and research managers about their networks and joining them at meetings with non-academics
- providing advice sessions for non-academics on a pro bono basis
- participating in online discussions and networks that are popular with professionals
- joining the committee of a community group, voluntary organisation or business network, such as local enterprise partnerships or community planning partnerships.
It can be useful to set yourself achievable goals. SMART – which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound – is an established model for setting personal and business objectives.
It can help you find and make specific contacts rather than build enormous numbers of people, which may not be manageable or useful. Aim to build a small number of valuable contacts at the outset and be prepared for some contact opportunities not to work out.
If you are at the start of a research or knowledge exchange project and require support in finding potential users or partners for collaboration, approaching your research office can also be very useful.