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Consultancy is the provision of expert advice and work that is carried out for an external client. It falls outside mainstream research and teaching, and can deliver a range of financial and non-financial rewards for academic staff and the college.

This page contains information that will help you to determine if the work you plan to undertake is consultancy and provides you with details of the support and guidance available to you.

The Research Grants and Contracts Office can help you to plan and manage your consultancy project.

What are the benefits of consultancy?

  • There is normally a financial incentive to carry out consultancy but other benefits include opportunities to apply and test research in non-academic environments, to increase the profile and awareness of your research through working with a range of clients and that consultancy can often lead to more significant collaborations, partnerships or income generating activities. Some restrictions may be applied to the publication of commercially sensitive material generated through consultancy, but it is still possible to gain valuable case study material for teaching and learning purposes.

What support is available to me?

  • The Research Grants and Contracts Office will provide dedicated support for you to carry out consultancy through the College. Through the RGCO, you can access information and advice about a range of issues, including;
    • Costing and pricing, including questions about VAT.
    • Invoicing and payments.
    • Insurance and Professional Indemnities.
    • Contract negotiation.
    • Intellectual Property.
  • Where a particularly complex contractual or IP issue arises, working through the College also enables us to seek specialist external advice on your behalf. When contract terms have been agreed and the agreement is signed, the RGCO will then set up a consultancy project file and code, and you will manage the operational aspects of the project but the RGCO will liaise with finance to ensure invoices are raised and payments are received. Working through the College also means that you will be covered by institutional insurance and professional indemnity policies, which can be costly to maintain as a private consultant.

Can I carry out my consultancy project privately?

  • Yes. College policy permits colleagues to contract independently with external clients, at the discretion of the relevant senior member of staff, provided that the total number of days dedicated to consultancy does not exceed 30 days per year. In the case you must complete and sign a Consultancy Waiver Form, which is available from the RGCO. A copy countersigned by your Executive Dean should be sent to the Research Grants and Contracts Office before your work begins. You may not make use of College equipment, facilities advice or support in these cases and you should ensure that it is clear to your client you are carrying out this work independently of the College.

What is the difference between private consultancy and consultancy through the College?

  • If you elect to work through the College, you will normally benefit from institutional public liability and professional insurance policies. These can be very costly and time consuming to maintain as a private consultant, so represent a significant advantage in carrying out College Consultancy. You can also use College affiliation, stationery and emails in dialogue with your client. Additionally, you may draw upon advice regarding contracts, IP, costing, pricing, payments and invoicing from the Research Grants and Contracts Office, who can also act as a central point of contact for your partners and stakeholders. The Research Grants and Contracts Office will also seek additional, specialist advice on a case by case basis to ensure you and the College are protected from risk and liability.
  • If you work as a private consultant, you do so at your own risk and must make it clear to your client that you are not consulting on behalf of Birkbeck. You will be responsible for making your own arrangements regarding invoicing, taxation and National Insurance contributions. You must also ensure that your consultancy does not represent a reputational risk to the College, or create a conflict of interests.

How should I cost my consultancy project?

  • In most cases, the majority of the cost of a consultancy project will be your time, but you also need to include a contribution to overhead costs if you are working through Birkbeck. If the consultancy necessitates travel or other non-staff expenses you can either build this into your daily rate, or specify costs for these additional items in the contract with the client. Again, the Research Grants and Contracts Office can help in costing and pricing your consultancy. A culture of under-pricing consultancy expertise is prevalent in the HE sector and working with the RGCO might lead to the negotiation of more favourable terms and conditions. It is also important to recognise that consultancy is often the first stage in developing a knowledge exchange partnership or relationship, which can set the parameters for future interactions.

Do I need to add VAT to my consultancy project?

  • Yes, consultancy falls outside normal school research and teaching activities and therefore attracts VAT. Consultancy prices should always be quoted to clients as exclusive of VAT or as £xxx + VAT.

How do I get paid?

  • If you work through the College, you can elect to receive your part of the payment through payroll (minus deductions for tax & NI) or your payment can be made to a special funds account, which you can use to pay for conferences, equipment or other research and pedagogic activities. Your payment will be made only after payment has been received from the client.

Who owns any IP generated as a result of my consultancy?

  • In most cases, the client would own the IP unless agreement has been made to the contrary before the consultancy begins. Whilst foreground IP is not normally generated through consultancy activities, one of the benefits of College Consultancy is that expert advice is sought relating to IP. A risk of private consultancy is that IP that may have been created collectively by your research group can essentially leak away to the client and wider benefits to the institution can be lost or diluted. RGCO will negotiate terms relating to IP on a case by case basis to ensure you and the College are protected.

I have been asked to review a publication / act as an external examiner at another institution. Do these activities constitute consulting activity?

  • No. These activities, alongside writing or editing academic textbooks, making media appearances, royalty agreements and carrying out QA activities are all considered to be part of the accepted remit of an academic. Whilst some or all of them might involve a contractual agreement, these activities are not considered consulting and would not contribute to the 30 day limit. You may retain any payment or honoraria received in connection with these activities, being mindful of HMRC regulations.