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James Grist is a Principal Investigator in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics. In his collaboration story, James shares his experience of growing organic collaborations, accelerating the transition from innovative concepts to practical applications. The story also highlights key successes, including impactful research outputs and the development of versatile students equipped for both academic and industrial environments.

James Grist alongside a quote "A particular motivation that I have for working with industry is to link our cutting-edge research in academia with the real-world impact that an industrial partner can leverage. "

What has your experience of working with Industry been like?  

My experience working with industry has been formed through multiple collaborations with Polarean (a company that produces Xenon hyperpolarizers), General Electric Healthcare and PulseTeq (an MRI coil company) who sponsor two MRC iCASE PhD students, and Bristol Myers Squibb, who fund a clinical study and PostDoc. I enjoy the interface between academia and industry as it provides an exciting arena to test a scientific hypothesis and then move it to real-world benefit. A particular motivation that I have for working with industry is to link our cutting-edge research in academia with the real-world impact that an industrial partner can leverage.  

How did your collaborations start off and how did they grow?  

The collaborations that we have were organically grown, having met with industry representatives through my work before approaching them for funding. Specifically, our work surrounds the use of new magnetic resonance imaging methods to probe metabolism and the movement of gas from the lungs and into the bloodstream. So far, we have really enjoyed working with our partner companies, they all bring something unique to our work and provide us an insight into the differences in mindset between academia and industry. I’ve been particularly impressed at how quickly one can go from concept to funding when partnered with industry, where conventional research funding often takes over a year to obtain.

What have been the most successful outputs so far from working with industry?  

So far, we have had a number of successful outputs from our work, including papers, new approaches to collecting data, and (I think most importantly) students that have a wide experience from, and skill set that suits, academia and industry interaction.  

A few tips for working with industry:  

  1. The research question you want to collaborate on has to have a reasonable real-world problem to answer.  
  2. Be prepared for your partner to request changes to the idea that you have, depending on their commercial interest.  
  3. Get the work done! It’s too easy for academics to take time in their work and wait years before publishing data. Industry is about delivering results in an efficient, robust, manner.  

do you have some final words for us?  

Always be open and flexible in your research, collaboration with others (both within and beyond academia and industry) is the best way to push forward our boundaries of knowledge and to have a team that really does the job well. Don’t be afraid of working with others, and see how you can give back to them in your work just as they give to you.