Industry-Sponsored Research Week

COVID-19 NERF helps generate new agreements with corporate partners

By David Schwartz
Published: July 21st, 2020

A detailed article on how a new Non-Exclusive Royalty Free licensing effort related to COVID-19 has brought new industry relationships and partnering activity forward appears in the July issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For complete subscription details, click here.

There has been an understandable surge of interest on the part of industry to partner with universities in new research connected with the COVID-19 virus. Now several universities employing a new NERF made available in April and specifically designed to make such agreements more attractive and with less negotiating time say it’s leading to even more — and faster — collaborations with industry partners.

The COVID-19 Technology Access Framework, created through a collaboration of the Harvard Office of Technology Development, the Technology Licensing Office at MIT, and Stanford University Office of Technology Licensing, was designed “to incentivize the mobilization of lifesaving innovations and resources during a time of urgent need,” said Harvard Chief Technology Development Officer Isaac Kohlberg in a statement announcing the new agreement model. (More than 20 additional institutions have since signed on to the “Framework.”)

The Framework’s guidelines “provide for non-exclusive, royalty-free licensing of intellectual property rights for most types of technologies during the pandemic and for a short period afterward.” Licensees are expected to distribute the resulting products as widely as possible and at a low cost that allows for broad accessibility.

As for generating industry interest, the NERF appears to have done the trick. “Suffice to say we are busier than ever including an interesting intersection of SRAs coupled with the COVID-19 NERF on background IP to enable commercial use for a period of time,” reports Lesley Millar-Nicholson, director of the TLO at MIT.

“Commercialization of Harvard technologies that could assist with the pandemic has been the top priority for our office this spring and summer, in accordance with our Framework commitments and the round-the-clock efforts of Harvard faculty and researchers to meet the urgent need,” adds Caroline M. Perry, director of communications in the Harvard Office of Technology Development. “To date, under this Framework, we have completed six licenses and have at least half a dozen others pending; these licenses collectively pertain to innovations in various types of COVID-19 diagnostics and testing materials/devices.”

And Jim Roberts, a tech licensing officer at MIT, can specifically point to at least one SRA he contends was made possible through the NERF. “Having this NERF available helped us reach an agreement much faster and get the sponsored research going on a much timelier basis than if we had tried to negotiate an exclusive license to the entire platform,” he reports.

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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