RSA Fellow Ben Byford runs Eulergy, a Catalyst-supported project that helps organisations access top research talent from universities. In this guest blog, he explains how it works and where the idea came from.
I set up Eulergy to help bring together academic researchers and the people who need their skills. It matches higher education students and staff looking to conduct specialised research with industry specialists who have projects for them to work on.
Students and researchers each year have to apply their knowledge and skills to either tired or fictitious problems, or to funded work drawn from an ever-dwindling grant pool. At Eulergy we’d rather see researchers making a real difference: for example, a PhD Psychology student working with a design company to improve hospital interiors for greater patient and staff happiness, or a Materials Science student working with a not-for-profit on renewable plastics for 3D printing.
Eulergy was borne out of the difficulties and frustrations I faced having finishing my MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths University, and trying (unsuccessfully) to connect the research carried out for my thesis with an industry opportunity. I felt that without having already existing contacts in place it was very difficult to “match” my expertise outside of the University.
We feel strongly that the huge changes taking place in the higher education landscape, with increased top-up fees, student debt, unemployment and ever-depleting grant opportunities, call for new innovative approaches. A platform that enables connections to be built outside of the traditional model can address this issue from a new perspective.
We launched the beta version of the website in October at Dublin Websummit 2013, to positive feedback from both the education and industry sector. Since the launch we have visited universities and pitched Eulergy at funding events. The site has attracted 160 users, and we’ve had twelve projects pitch for them to get involved.
The scope of the projects has varied, ranging from market research for NGOs to research into renewable energy, ‘fair trade’ 3D printer filaments and the effect of art in healthcare. We have had a total of 1,269 visitors to the site, with the majority of visitors from the UK and US, as well as from India, Canada, Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain.
The RSA has played a big role in the inception and continued development of the platform. Eulergy began operating as the direct result of a RSA workshop, which brought together representatives from several universities as well as the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Since then, it has won two rounds of funding from RSA Catalyst, which provides both financial and non-financial support to Fellows’ projects.
There have been challenges along the way, such as the ongoing search to gain investment and the challenge of marketing the site to our target users and getting them onboard. Despite these setbacks, however, we continue to have responses to the site, having been featured in Springwise and nominated as Startacus’s Startup of the Week in January.
We believe the website will become more and more useful to companies, charities and cultural organisations as they struggle to find disruptive solutions to the problems they face. We also have a big role to play as universities increasingly look to prove the impact of their research beyond the academy. If you’d like to join the community, now is a great time: organisations and researchers can currently register through the beta site for free before searching or posting research projects.
Ben Byford is director of Eulergy. Get in touch with him via @eulergy on Twitter.
Find out more about RSA Catalyst, which provides money, expertise and crowdfunding to Fellow-led ideas that aim to have a positive social impact.