Technopolis Group is well known for its profound understanding of research and innovation systems, and expertise in a range of methodologies to collect and analyse evidence on their performance. We primarily provide our services to policy makers, but are increasingly contacted by implementing organisations, such as research and higher education institutions or funding agencies, and asked to provide consultancy services that combine organisational development with thematic expertise.

Within these organisations, we often observe a need to strengthen leadership, in the sense of agenda-setting and implementation. Individuals in leadership positions tend to see their power restricted in a complex system of multiple stakeholder involvement, negotiation, expectations, and short timeframes. There is a gap between their (smart) analysis and conclusions on necessary next steps, and their pragmatic appreciation of the (small) room for manoeuvre. In this kind of situation, facilitation of interventions can have more relevance and impact than additional research or data mining. Still, this support should be based on the available information base, going beyond pure ‘change management’ consultancy.

We have identified at least four key developments with a strong impact on organisations in the research and higher education sector that create sector-specific needs within these organisations:

Pairing expert consultancy with organisational consultancy might seem straightforward, yet for many consultants it’s a no-go. Organisational consultants tend to empower their clients to find solutions for themselves, whereas experts sell solutions they know in advance or provide objective expertise. Our work with organisations challenges this separation, building new services based on evidence, observation, interpretation, communication and interaction.

The rise in ‘quantification’ and ‘management by indicators’ is accompanied by an increased demand for communication-based soft skills. Whereas consultancy approaches developed for the business and corporate sectors might not always be appropriate, given the particularities of the research and higher education sector, thanks to our core competences as evaluators Technopolis Group are well positioned to provide valuable services to these organisations. The definition of meaningful performance indicators, (societal) impact analysis, excellence and resource assessment, up-to-date tools for data collection and analysis and profound knowledge of regional, national and international contexts, are valuable inputs to strategy development for research organisations and funding agencies.

Two ways of working

Still, there are crucial differences between organisational consultancy services and the evaluation of public support programs or strategic advice to policymakers:

The two types of services have much in common, however, in both cases, the work is evidence-based (this might be seen as déformation professionelle). The analysis of structures, processes, indicators and context defines the value and quality of both external expertise and organisational consultancy. In the latter, the process itself, the acceptance of our suggestions, and resistance to them are to be considered in our intervention.

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