While government agencies and not-for-profit foundations maintain their leading role as sponsors of research at Harvard and other universities (visit Harvard's Office for Sponsored Programs for further information), discovery-stage innovation in academic laboratories also is supported by companies that seek to partner with thought leaders and thereby accelerate innovation in their respective commercial fields. Corporate support for academic research comes in many forms, of which financial sponsorship is only one. Companies also share proprietary materials and even technical expertise in furtherance of their and Harvard scientists’ shared research goals.
OTD staff members can assist Harvard researchers in securing financial or other research support from industry by identifying prospective sponsors and negotiating agreements, such as industry-sponsored research agreements (ISRAs), material transfer agreements (MTAs) and research collaboration agreements (RCAs). While many of these agreements are limited in scope (e.g., an MTA that covers the transfer of a single material), others are broad, such as ‘umbrella’ or master research agreements that may facilitate projects from numerous Harvard laboratories over a period of years. Each is tailored to meet the specific needs of the Harvard research program that it is intended to support, but certain features common to all such agreements ensure that the mission-directed goals of Harvard, the academic freedoms of its faculty, students and other researchers and the commercial goals of the for-profit sponsor are respected and fairly balanced. For example, each of OTD’s agreements with industry:
- Safeguards Harvard researchers’ ability to publish the results of their research in accordance with academic custom;
- Is limited in duration and tied to a specific research plan that is generated by the Harvard principal investigator and approved by OTD staff;
- Provides that Harvard owns the results of the sponsored research and all associated intellectual property (IP), e.g., patents, copyrights and know-how;
- Grants the company a time-limited option to negotiate licenses to the sponsored IP on usual and customary terms (i.e., in exchange for fair market value and with appropriate commercial diligence, including as regards global access to medical technologies) – no perpetual rights, ‘sweetheart’ deals or ability to suppress technology;
- Offers no guaranteed results or other ‘deliverables’ – the research and any resulting IP are provided to the company on an ‘as is’ basis.
- Reserves the rights of researchers at Harvard and elsewhere to use any sponsored IP for educational and not-for-profit research use.
If you are interested in obtaining industry support for your Harvard research, please connect with the OTD staff member with whom you normally work, or, if there is no such person, contact OTD.