Attending a Doctoral Colloquium can be an exciting and valuable experience for doctoral students at all stages in their journey. I was lucky enough to be accepted to this year’s R&D Management conference and Doctoral Colloquium, held in the beautiful (and very hot) Sevilla. This was my first time attending a colloquium so I thought I would share my experiences to help other first-time goers or those that are simply interested to learn more about the experience.

The colloquium typically provides a platform for doctoral candidates to present themselves and their ongoing research work, receive feedback, and interact with experienced researchers and scholars in our field. Here are my key takeaways:

Research is MEsearch:

Alberto Di Minin (Co-Editor in Chief of R&D Management Journal) energetically opened the colloquium with a ‘Start with Why’ exercise (if you are familiar with Simon Sinek’s work). As an icebreaker and to introduce ourselves, we all shared the ‘why’ of our research, before explaining the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. This was a meaningful reminder of how research is really MEsearch which we don’t often acknowledge – you are the one invested in your topic, you are carrying out the research, you are producing the results. It is important we remind ourselves why we are doing this and continue to engage with that in order to power on and in creating connections with others.


Presentation of Research:

As a participant, we had the opportunity to present our doctoral research projects in the form of a poster presentation. It was interesting to see the range of posters presented, from the traditional academic poster format to more visual and creative ones. Honestly, I felt a little self-conscious displaying my work on a giant A0 sheet for everyone to poke at, but this became a very fruitful exercise both for myself and I hope for those interested in my work. In the preparations I stressed over what and how I should present, but in the end I learnt it is most important to understand what YOU would like to get from the interaction and let your poster follow that principle, no matter how others have approached the task.


Networking Opportunities:

The colloquium allows you to connect with other doctoral students and researchers who share similar interests in R&D management and wider management topics. Networking is an essential aspect of academic conferences, as it opens doors for potential collaborations and research partnerships in the future. However, what is perhaps some unspoken law about conferences that is maybe unknown to new PhD students (at least it was to me) is how social these events are. The majority of networking, and deeper connections, happen outside of the conference centre and instead in the bars, tours, dinners, etc. Having these bonding moments and community building activities are essential, so while these are very long and tiring days, I would urge all students to make the most of these additional activities where possible and be open to getting involved.


Mentorship and Guidance:

Expect to receive insights, suggestions, and critiques from both fellow doctoral students and established researchers. This feedback can be invaluable in refining your research approach and identifying potential areas for improvement, particularly gaining insights from outside of your usual mentorship. We were honoured to benefit from the expertise and wisdom of Petra C. de Weerd-Nederhof, Lucia Naldi, Wim Vanhaverbeke, Anne Ter-Wal, Bart Van Looy, Shanthi Gopalakrishnan, Andrea Piccaluga, Leticia Pérez-Calero, and Jeremy Klein.


Exposure to Current Trends:

We can often get stuck in our narrow little holes as PhD students focussing hard on our topics. While sometimes I find it overwhelming to become distracted by so many new ideas and inputs, you never know when a piece of advice, literature suggestion, new connection, etc. may become fundamental to your work. Since R&D Management conference attracts the leading experts and top students in the field, the colloquium can expose you to the latest trends and emerging areas of interest in R&D management.


Practice in Academic Communication:

Presenting at the colloquium allows you to refine your academic communication skills, including attempting to deliver clear research ideas, responding to questions, and engaging with an audience. When working with experts who have 10s of years experience in these fields, I often still feel that I know nothing about my topic. Having to communicate my research, respond to questions, and share the observations I am making surprisingly gave me some ‘uh-huh’ moments where I realised, perhaps sometimes I do know what I am talking about. Similarly, being asked questions opened up new avenues even in my own mind about what should be clarified and what is most interesting to answer – which is key to making impact with your work!

Community Building:

As mentioned above regarding networking, one of the biggest takeaways was the social aspect that I did not expect. Being able to connect with other doctoral students in your field and share some of the trials and tribulations of this journey with them is a very cathartic and underrated activity. Particularly since this is a small and select group (approx. 40 students accepted) means that you do have the opportunity to get to know most of the students over the 2 days and, even better, you then have some familiar faces to say hello to during the conference. Of course, I hope that all doctoral students also have a great community at their home institution, but having this community extended across borders is all the more valuable. For future collaboration, or future complaining, as you wish!


Overall, remember to come prepared with energy and intention and don’t be shy to receiving constructive criticism. This is an excellent chance to gain valuable insights into your work and build connections within the academic community, so don’t forget to follow-up afterwards too. Enjoy the experience and make the most out of this unique opportunity!

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