Keep track of your rights during collaboration

Collaborating with the business community can give your research wings. But, make sure that you handle your IP properly. Olivia Tolan at UU Innovation knows what you need to think about before, during and after the collaboration.

Olivia Tolan is one of UU Innovation's IP Advisors.

Companies are constantly looking for expertise or credibility that can contribute to their operations. For researchers, collaboration can open up new opportunities and provide important financial support. But, the form of the collaboration must first be defined.

“My best advice is to put a lot of thought into things before the project starts. It is important to have a discussion about how you will handle the collaboration,” says Olivia Tolan, IP Advisor at UU Innovation. “What does each individual want to achieve, what are you going to share, and what will happen with your research results once the collaboration ends?”

It is best to contact an IP advisor early on. An IP advisor knows about suitable forms of agreements and compensation models, and can help you to create a joint declaration of intent. The actual agreement can later be worded in one or two pages that specify how rights will be distributed and how long something is to be kept confidential. Between one and three years is common.

“The researcher should have the right to publish and use the results in research and teaching. They should also avoid signing away their right to collaborate with other companies in the future,” advises Olivia Tolan.

One dilemma for researchers can be finding a balance between publishing and access to new knowledge in the collaboration with a company. Another difficulty can be an urgent need for funding for continued research. However, all parties usually understand what can be considered reasonable, and they usually find a suitable solution. Like in the case of the successful medical research team who contracted with a company within a narrow niche to share certain results.

“The researcher sent early versions of the manuscript to the company prior to publication. In return for payment, the company had first dibs on using the data commercially, for example by applying for a patent. At the same time, the researcher retained control over publication and the right to further collaboration with other parties.”

IP stands for intellectual property

The IP advisors at UU Innovation can help you understand how the collaboration can be conducted in the best possible way. They are experts in protecting your idea without making things overly complicated. UU Innovation also offers courses in IP issues.

Good advice:

  • Figure out what kind of collaboration you want to have
  • Define the type of agreement and the contractual parties
  • Contact an IP advisor early on