Research and Innovation Services


Material Transfer Agreements (MTA) guidance

MTAs are required for the transfer of materials and data between UCL and another party, such as a university or private company. This page sets out the policy, procedure, and guidance for MTAs at UCL.

    What is a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA)?

    MTAs are legal contracts that set out the terms and conditions of the transfer and use of materials and/or data between the owner or provider and a recipient. Material transfer agreements (MTAs) protect UCL and the UCL researcher by recording the transfer of materials and/or data.

    MTAs also set out any relevant legislative and regulatory requirements which the recipient and provider must comply with.  

    Importance of an MTA

    Commercial organisations, non-profit organisations and other academic institutions, will only release materials if there is an MTA in place between the provider and the recipient.

    Benefits of an MTA

    An MTA offers important benefits to the provider and recipient. It can:

    • give them control over the distribution and use of the material
    • help them gain access to the results of the research, both for information purposes and for commercial exploitation.

    What do we mean by materials?

    The MTA policy covers agreements relating to the transfer of materials, data or both.

    Material Transfer Agreements

    MTAs are used for materials, including but not limited to:

    • Cultures
    • Cell lines
    • Plasmids
    • Nucleotides
    • Proteins
    • Bacteria
    • Transgenic animals
    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Other chemicals
    • Alloys
    • Other materials with scientific or commercial value

    An MTA can also cover data, where data is being received alongside the materials. This can include anonymised, pseudo anonymised or personal data.

    Data Transfer Agreements (DTA)

    A Data Transfer Agreement (DTA) is a type of MTA.

    A DTA is used where only data/data sets are being transferred. A DTA will be used for the transfer of anonymised data, pseudonymised or personal data.

    When do you need an MTA? 

    An MTA is required by UCL for all incoming and outgoing material transfers except when purchased on the open market. 

    Incoming transfers  

    Where UCL is requesting a provider to supply it with materials, either with or without paying a fee. 

    Purchasing materials on the open market 

    All material transfers are subject to UCL’s MTA Policy. However, a separate contract is not required for purchases on the open market. These purchases will come with their own terms and conditions. It is important that these terms and conditions are carefully reviewed, as they will commit UCL to certain legal obligations.

    Please make sure you refer to the usual UCL Procurement policies and procedures (login required). 

    Outgoing transfers  

    An MTA is required by UCL for any outgoing transfer of:  

    • UCL developed materials including those listed above 
    • UCL developed materials that contain or incorporate components received from a third party 
    • Materials developed for or on behalf of UCL  
    • Human blood, tissue, and/or plasma harvested at UCL or by UCL researchers at third party facilities 

    Who can sign an MTA? 

    MTAs can only be signed by an authorised UCL signatory in line with UCL’s Delegated Authorities.

    The Research and Innovation Services (RIS) team makes sure the terms and conditions of the MTA are suitable for the transfer of the materials.  

    Any unauthorised employee who executes an MTA may face disciplinary action. 

    How long does UCL take to complete an MTA? 

    Most MTAs can be completed within 90 days. However, the length of time depends on the responsiveness and negotiating stance of the recipient organisation.

    Additional negotiation  

    If your MTA has any of the following considerations, this may require negotiation and increase the amount of time it takes to sign the agreement. 

    • Commercial licenses which will need UCL Business' input into the terms 
    • MTAs for "state-of-the-art" materials  
    • For-profit entities  
    • Where UCL is charging a fee or paying a fee for the materials  
    • Publication rights  
    • Intellectual property (IP) rights  
    • Inventorship 
    • Governing law 
    • Warranties  
    • Indemnities  
    • IP clauses which include ownership of non-severable modifications and improvements to the materials 
    • Revenue sharing of non-severable modifications and improvements to the materials 

    Conflicts and disagreement 

    Should there be a conflict between the terms of the MTA and funding terms and conditions, Research and Innovation Services (RIS) will advise the UCL researcher to request written approval from the funding body to deviate from the funding terms and conditions.  

    The UCL researcher will need to create a new Worktribe contract request and include the above-written approval.  

    RIS will then agree to a formal amendment to the funding terms and conditions to reflect the change.   

    How to request an MTA  

    If you require an MTA, the process begins with the completion of either the MTA or DTA Incoming/Outgoing form, to be included with the submission of a Worktribe contract request.


    For clinical trials/studies MTAs, contact the UCLH/UCL Joint Research Office who are responsible for negotiating, approving and signing agreements relating to clinical trials/studies. 

    For material transfers where UCL is charging another party for a service, contact UCL Consultants.

     To use the Addgene service, you should request or deposit your materials in the usual way.

    The process for incoming and outgoing MTAs is the same:

    1. Once you have identified you require an MTA, inform your Research Group Leader
    2. Read UCL’s MTA policy (UCL login required)
    3. If you are requesting an Incoming MTA or DTA, please complete the Incoming MTA form. If you are requesting an Outgoing MTA/DTA, please complete the Outgoing MTA form. 
    4. Complete a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), where the material includes or is for pseudonymised or personal data
    5. Ensure you have appropriate ethical approval. Material transfer (including data transfers) commonly requires specific ethical approval and assessment, including transfer of Human tissue ethics and Human tissue integrityAnimal research at UCL, and Biological Services 
    6. Create a contract request in Worktribe and upload all relevant documentation and information related to the MTA.
      Where it is linked to a current project, ensure that the Worktribe contract request is linked to the project in Worktribe (see exceptions above)
    7. You will receive a notification from the contracts team once your MTA has been approved. 
      Once the MTA is signed by the recipient and provider, you may arrange the transfer of the materials. 

    MTA process diagram

    MTA process diagram

    Please note

    • Remember where applicable to submit your DPIA early to reduce any delays.
    • If there are any high-risk terms (see Section 3.3 of the MTA policy) your request will be escalated to your Dean for approval.  
    • Transfers must be consistent with regulatory requirements eg ethical, import and export controls and legislation.  
    • It is your responsibility to ensure all approvals, ethics and other UCL approvals (such as those related to animals) are in place prior to submitting a Worktribe contract request for an MTA. 
    • It is your responsibility to ensure that all costs, including transport/delivery costs, are covered by the project budget or that budget is available to cover these costs.