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We present results of a survey conducted with researchers and practitioners involved in a Swiss National Research Programme on steering energy consumption. We analyse what motivates practitioners and researchers to engage in a collaborative research project, their perception of the collaboration intensity in different project phases, and the extent to which the research project provided useful results for practitioners. Our analyses demonstrate that the intensity of collaboration is a key driver of successful collaboration as it fosters trust between researchers and practitioners. Thereby, it increases the usefulness of the research project for practitioners and their perceived contribution to the success of the research project. Research programmes should thus (1) foster trust through incentivising collaboration between research and practice; (2) facilitate the development of a shared understanding of researchers’ and practitioners’ respective roles; and (3) support the inclusion of practitioners in the project development phase through financial support during the proposal-writing phase.