Higher degree research students and their contributions to society and the economy are well known. However, the recognition of the increasing numbers of such students and the decreasing availability of supervisors implies that traditional individual modes of research supervision are no longer sufficient, while models of cohort supervision have led to successful outcomes. This paper uses the notion of threshold crossing to reflect upon a case study of higher degree research (HDR) supervision in an action research program, where students are immersed in industry projects to investigate company issues, innovate and transform the organisation. The action research model balances structure and flexibility, with set tasks and embedded reflexivity; the responsiveness of the model ensures timely project completion and the development of critical thinking skills. Balancing the proximity and distance between the supervisors, student, cohort and industry partner ensures that students are socialised into both academic and industry settings, developing self-efficacy to succeed in both worlds. Analysis of interviews with students and firm partners reveals that the cohort model valorises the higher research degree, developing research students. Three trends in HDR supervision are reconciled in the pedagogical approach outlined: bridging industry and academia, enculturation and emancipation and communities of learning and practice.