Consultancy is difficult to define, but a general rule is that it uses only existing know-how or expertise. Contract research, on the other hand, contributes to the mainstream research and teaching of a department, and will often result in the creation of know-how.

Consultancy Project Contract Research
Voluntary activity by academic consultant Research part of academic duties
Specific problem solving for client organisation Speculative research of mutual interest
Substantial individual work, some facilities use Substantial use of facilities
Results confidential Results published
Client organisation normally owns IP University normally owns IP
Quotations for clients Full Economic Costs
Short timescales (1-18 months) Postdocs (1+ years) and Studentships (3 years)

Consultancy project

In which an outside organisation hires the services of a specific, skilled, individual member of staff - usually with no (or minimal) use of University facilities.

The expectation is that the academic consultant will be able to apply their personal skill and experience to help the client organisation solve technical or other problems that are specific to the client organisation's business.

This kind of work often has fairly short timescales (a few weeks or months), and should have clear and well-defined deliverables. The client organisation would normally expect to own the results of the work. Any publication arrangement is made by agreement with the client. 

Contract research

Usually externally-funded academic/scientific research activity based in the University, and using University resources such as scientific equipment, workshops, laboratories, technical and administrative support staff, and one or more researchers.

The expectation is that scientific understanding will be furthered, or that new conceptual ideas and inventions will be created. Although the actual outcomes of the work will not be known in advance, the results should always be published after minimal delays which may be necessary to protect arising IP.

Collaborative research of this type is part of the University's core activities, and the contractual arrangements for this are handled by your Project Officer.