Industry-Sponsored Research Week
Industry-Sponsored Research Management sample issue

Judgment, flexibility key to managing sponsors’ payment problems

By David Schwartz
Published: October 10th, 2017

Problems with sponsors paying properly can, for the most part, be avoided by doing some basic homework upfront, and they can usually be ameliorated after the fact by staying flexible and keeping the lines of communication open — which most universities’ industry-sponsored research policies address, and which most contracting executives do on the rare occasion that a financial issue arises.

Policy aside, however, it’s often up to the research executive overseeing the deal to exercise his or her own judgment and map out a solution. “Judgment and circumstance always play a role,” states Jim Baker, PhD, CLP, executive director of innovation and industry engagement, and co-director of the Pavlis Honors College Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship at Michigan Technological University, based in Houghton. “A considerable judgment call for us regarding how to handle a particular situation is our overall relationship with the company and our level of trust with it.”

Flexibility and patience, he points out, can come with trust and a historically positive partnering experience. “A good partner that has an absentminded bill payment practice is tolerable as long as it’s responsive to reminders,” Baker says. “We will generally work with a sponsor and nurture the relationship as much as necessary as long as the company is otherwise a good partner to work with.”

Daryl Weinert, associate vice president for research in charge of sponsored projects at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and formerly head of the school’s Business Engagement Center, understands flexibility. “I’d say in general this is not a huge issue, knock on wood,” he says. “But in most instances, because [amounts in question] are generally not large, the situation can be amicably worked out. We may have to stretch out payment terms or something similar.”

When payment problems do arise, they’re usually all about the sponsor’s bank account. “Our most common issue, and the one that is most difficult to deal with, is the sponsor’s financial condition — or claimed financial condition,” Baker says. “There have been instances where bureaucratic or process issues have been involved, which can be difficult and take time to untangle. But we get paid in the end under those circumstances.”

Here’s what to watch out for: ….

A detailed article on dealing with sponsor payment issues appears in the September issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. To subscribe and get the full article, and receive a $100 charter subscriber discount along with a 3-program distance learning collection filled with sponsored research best practices, CLICK HERE.

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