Why you should ask for money when working with industry

In our research, we often work with industry. In software engineering research, this is a no-brainer: Industry is, where there the research data is. That’s why we go there. For many research questions, we cannot create adequately, in a laboratory setting, a situation that lets us do our research.

Once a researcher realizes this, they need to decide on whether to charge the industry partner for the collaboration. Many researchers don’t, because sales is not exactly their strength. Also, many shy away from asking for money, because it is an additional hurdle to overcome, once an interested industry partner has been found.

However, there are many good reasons for why one should require adequate payment. Most notably, if an industry partner pays,

  • you know that there is clearly recognized value in the work you are doing, at least for one company,
  • you know that you have talked with sufficiently important people who can ensure that the project will continue,
  • you know they will work hard to give you access to data or will extract the data in in adequate quality themselves.

Without this necessary signal, I won’t engage in anything but the shortest-term projects with industry. If the industry partner does not demonstrate their commitment, the likelihood of project success, in my experience, drops significantly. Your contact person may be reassigned too easily, priorities are shifted around too easily, and any work they provide is voluntary in addition to their main duties and therefore often only treated as an afterthought. All of this easily leads to subpar quality of data and hence jeopardizes the research goals.



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