Industry-Sponsored Research Week
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Iowa State finds success with specialty services for industry

By David Schwartz
Published: September 5th, 2017

When Iowa State University launched and started publicizing its new Flexible Solutions reboot of IP and tech transfer offerings, the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer included research services that many such overhauls neglect: the ancillary “funding avenues for industry-sponsored research,” or specialty services, that often accompany and may sometimes lead to bigger-ticket projects.

Now, what ISU calls Specialty Solutions have their own industry-focused agreements, meaning negotiations for these services can be streamlined just as the school has done with research agreements.

“We’ve just chosen to formalize contracting for the specialty services,” says Lisa Lorenzen, PhD, executive director at the ISU Research Foundation and director at OIPTT. “You always have to adapt the agreement to the situation. We recognized where we were making the same adaptations. Now we don’t have to go through that each time.”

The broader Flexible Solutions menu includes a non-exclusive royalty-free license and option to negotiate up (Flex A); a pre-negotiated exclusive license for a 10% upfront fee (Flex B) or, for a larger fee, IP ownership (Flex C). Flex B and Flex C are only used when industry fully funds the research.

The Specialty Solutions menu features customized agreements for projects that don’t anticipate any new intellectual property. In all cases, the sponsor provides the material and the protocol and, in most instances, has the right to review and delay public disclosures of confidential or sensitive information. The Specialty Solutions menu includes:

  • Field trials. Evaluation of seeds, plants or chemicals; improvements to background IP owned by sponsor.
  • Clinical trials. Evaluation of non-pharmaceutical products, generally supplements or food products.
  • Animal product trials. Evaluation of drugs, medical devices or animal feed; animal subjects generally require Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee approval.
  • Technical services. Evaluation of equipment, software, samples or prototypes.

Also on the menu are Consortia, or Centers, which involve multiple universities and industry sponsors working on multiple sponsored research projects under industry-driven research agendas. Under those Specialty Solutions, IP is created, and it follows inventorship, although faculty that want to launch a Center must give all members non-exclusive rights to all IP, with certain restrictions.

Center formation is a more significant deal than the other specialty funding avenues, and requires formal proposals reviewed by multiple levels of university administration. Centers that “fail to achieve success in extramural funding” are dissolved.

The Specialty Solutions menu — which ISU has only been advertising along with the rest of the Flexible Solutions lineup for six months or so — is earning its keep. “Field trials are big,” Lorenzen reports, “and the others are growing, representing a growing part of our sponsored funding portfolio.” A detailed article on ISU’s specialty services strategy appears in the August issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. For details on a special charter subscription that includes a $100 discount and a free three-program distance learning collection on best practices in industry-university partnerships, CLICK HERE

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