UCL Enterprise


Industrial Research Contracts

1. What are industrial research contracts?

  • Industrial research contracts are the agreements by which UCL accepts funding and other contributions from an external company for the purpose of supporting a specific project.
  • These agreements may take the form of 1:1 collaborations with single industrial partners for single projects or potentially wider ranging strategic agreements intended to cover multiple projects over a longer time frame.
  • Whilst industrial collaborators can work with UCL on government, Research Council and charity funded projects, this guide focuses on projects where the funding originates from the companies themselves.

2. Why is this for me?

  • Seeking funding from industry has many attractions including flexibility (no restriction to a specific scheme or call; the freedom to discuss and negotiate the scope of work and budget with the funder, rather than entering a funding “lottery”), accessibility (face-to-face access to your funder and their staff / facilities / expertise) and more rapid application of research to solve real-world problems.
  • Industrial funding is already key in leveraging funding from other sources e.g. UCL Impact studentships, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), TSB grants, CASE and EngD studentships, as well as other RCUK schemes. Industrial partners will become an increasingly important source of funding over the next few years as the UK’s Science budget (which includes all RCUK bodies) shrinks in real terms.
  • Relationships with industrial funders can be developed at a pace that suits the researcher and can begin with lectures and colloquia, through consultancy, to sponsored research projects. Once such relationships are established, subsequent research projects and funding are usually much easier to agree and speedier to implement.
  • Industrially funded research can take many forms, from contract research in which UCL delivers a project within a specific area of interest for the company involved, to funding of investigator led “blue skies” research and PhD projects in areas of common interest.
  • The aims of companies and universities are often complementary and can provide both synergistic and reputational gains for both sides. A key advantage to engaging with industrial partners is that it provides an insight into the needs and problems of the sector, which can contribute to more productive knowledge transfer and new directions in research and teaching, as well as greater relevance and impact for research outputs. For a business view of the value of these university-company interactions, see the CBI guide.
  • The value of collaborating with SMEs and other industrial partners on studentships is outlined in the Research Studentship Contracts – How To Guide for UCL Staff.
  • Note: Quality-related Research funding (QR) is available for all industrial funding contributions for university research, whether domestic or overseas, including studentships. QR can boost the cash value of the cash contribution from such funders by as a much as 25%.

3. Who can I talk to?

  • The Research Contracts team in the Pre-Award Section of Research Services is responsible for preparing and negotiating all research contracts with external collaborators on behalf of UCL. You can find your department’s Contracts Manager here and a full list of Pre-Award contacts for each UCL department can be found here. Research Services also manages all research council funding pools (CDTs, DTCs etc.) and can be contacted here for enquiries relating to allocation of such funds to your proposed studentship project.

4. What should I expect?

  • This depends upon the type of work and other contextual considerations. Industrial funders almost without exception expect and require a contractual document to be signed, in order to record the rights and obligations of the parties and thereby protect their respective interests.
  • The contracting process is generally the same for all types of funded research contracts:

Step 1 – Preparation

  • (Identification of collaborator / outline project by PI, possibly supported by UCL CDT Manager and/or other UCL liaison staff – School Research Facilitator, Business Development / Enterprise Officer)
  • Discuss with your Contracts Manager / provide background information (CIF) submit costing to the RFU (should always be undertaken prior to discussing costs with the funder)
  • Your Contracts Manager will undertake internal diligence checks and prepare the appropriate UCL template, or make an initial review of terms offered by funder in order to advise you

Step 2 – Negotiation

  • Your Contracts Manager will discuss the proposed terms and suggested changes with funder – this may include negotiation on performance, contract price, IP rights, publications (including theses), liability provisions, timing of payment etc. where appropriate
  • Your Contracts Manager will consult with you and your department and advise on pertinent issues throughout the negotiation process, in order to allow informed decisions to be made. The aim is to reach a mutually acceptable position for UCL and the funder that is fit for purpose, within a reasonable time frame

Step 3 – Finalisation

  • Once terms are agreed in principle and any authorisations and consents are in place (e.g. ethical approval, Dean of Faculty approval, where appropriate) your Contracts Manager will co-ordinate the signature process
  • After signature process is complete the file is updated and passed for FIS account activation. You will then receive an email from Research Services announcing the account code, with a scanned copy of the agreement attached

Note: For jointly-funded projects, you will usually receive one account code for each funding source

5. What do I do next?

  • Firstly, get involved with industry and get your research known. If you need help with this, see the training and networking opportunities offered by UCL Advances (UCLA), or register as a consultant with UCL Consultants (UCLC). Another option is to talk to your colleagues, business development staff and/or Research Services for advice on what companies UCL is currently working with. Once you have interest from a company in a research project, the process follows the flow chart above but see also a quick list of hints below (for additional detail, see the Research Contracts Guide <weblink>):
  • Contact the Contracts Manager responsible for your Department at an early stage
  • Disclose any valuable information relating to your background IP – in particular if it has been subject to any previous patents and/or license or other agreements
  • Consider putting in place a Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) with your collaborator(s) before undertaking any detailed discussions on proposed projects – your Contracts Manager will be able to advise and provide suitable documentation
  • Agree the price of your contract with the funder until a UCL costing has been approved
  • Discuss the research project details with your collaborator(s) in order that all parties are clear about their respective contributions, expectations and activities
  • Agree to assign or otherwise commit any arising IP from the project until you have discussed the details of the project with your Contracts Manager
  • Ensure that you fully cost your project and have it approved through the Research Finance Unit as well as discussing the contract price with your Contracts Manager
  • Agree any restrictions on your rights to publish until you have discussed the details of the project with your Contracts Manager
  • Set a realistic time frame for the start date and delivery of the project
  • Sign any agreements on behalf of UCL as the legal party
  • Make sure that you and your Contracts Manager are aware of any deadlines for conclusion of the studentship contract
  • Provide any template agreements  to your collaborator unless agreed with you Contracts Manager
  • Provide your Contract Manager with all necessary information/contacts, ideally by completion of a Contract Information Form
  • Assume that UCL can accept the same terms for a new project that may have been agreed under a previous arrangement with the same collaborator

Please Note:

  • Research contracts can take variable amounts of time to complete, depending upon the context. This can be a few weeks or even months in some cases, but in general can be expedited provided that all relevant background information has been provided to your Contracts Manager as early as possible. The Research Contracts team aim to get each contract finalised as soon as possible (and within 90 days of receiving all the required information from the PI in the majority of cases).
  • The overall time required also depends on whether UCL’s template is utilised, as well as how speedily the external funder turns around the agreement under discussion. This can vary on a case by case basis, due to the funder’s internal administrative processes and/or the need to seek external legal advice. Your Contracts Manager represents a sole point of contact for both you and the funder, which generally simplifies the contracting process at UCL’s end.

For more information see Research Contracts – Revised Processes & Policies or speak with your Contracts Manager