Academic collaborations are beneficial for the industrial partner, as it allows the partner to generate new ideas and obtain important research results, validating the science and/or explaining the science behind the technology. In addition, the collaboration can provide employment opportunities for students, as partners often hire graduates involved in a research project. Researchers should see industry partners as a useful, up-to-date source of knowledge and wisdom that should be consulted throughout the project.
Due to conflicting needs, not all industrial research is appropriate for a collaborative research effort. Dr. Lincoln Smith, Director, Research Partnerships and Enterprise Creation, is available to discuss the suitability of a potential project, along with matters relating to intellectual property, including the rights of each party to ownership and/or access to any IP generated by the project, how the IP will be protected and disseminated, and the impact of IP on publication, confidentiality and liability.
Partnering with business and industry
We take great pride in our research collaborations with community and industry. Each year, several research collaborations benefit from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's Engage program. This program applies researcher expertise with company challenges, and these partnerships serve as the first step to establishing long-term, impactful collaborations. Students who participate in these projects acquire the skills that businesses value, positioning themselves to pursue science and engineering research careers needed for Canada to maintain an innovative economy.
NSERC's searchable database contains all of the Engage-funded projects undertaken by our researchers.
In order to ensure that the mandate of NSERC and the rights of all participants are protected, it is mandatory that all research agreements, contain clauses that address the following elements:
- Timeliness of exploitation: Agreements where access to IP is granted via an exclusive license or assignment, before the start of the project, must state that exploitation will be pursued with due diligence and within an appropriate time frame. These exploitation terms are dependent on the technology and the nature of the relationship between the parties, but must be included and allow for future use of the IP by the inventors in the case of a failure to exploit the IP.
- Confidential Information: The IP assets of all participants must be respected. A partner’s proprietary data, commercially sensitive information and potentially valuable results or ideas must be protected from unauthorized, inadvertent or untimely disclosure.
- Research results cannot be secret: The results of the research must be publishable in the open literature. NSERC does not support secret or classified research. In order to secure IP protection, a maximum delay of six months is permitted when submitting papers for publication. No publication should expose a partner’s proprietary information without their express permission to do so.
- Academic progression: There can be no delay for the defence of a student’s thesis.
- Rights for future research and teaching: The university and its researchers must retain the right to use the knowledge or IP generated for non-commercial purposes in future research and in teaching.
Industrial partner roles and responsibilities
When entering into a collaboration with a TRU researcher, an industrial partner should:
- understand the differences in academic and industrial timelines and recognize the other academic obligations (education and publication) of your academic partner;
- discuss IP issues with the academic researchers and the institution prior to initiation of the research project, and negotiate a collaborative research agreement that includes the rights and responsibilities of all involved. It is important that this be done before the research gets underway;
- be aware of your rights with respect to protection of background IP, confidentiality of the research results and exploitation of the research results, and ensure these are covered in the research agreement.