Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A model for academic-industry cooperation

Collaborations among universities and businesses are crucial not only to making new discoveries but also to ensuring that breakthroughs in science and technology find their way to the people who need them. Academics have a history of either giving away too much of their intellectual property to corporate partners or of making it too difficult for companies to license the technology. The solution is to find a middle ground.

James Weyhenmeyer, Senior Vice Provost for Research with the State University of New York (SUNY) shows the way. He sites an example of a deal signed in 2007 for the University of California Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to work with energy producer BP on a US $500 million research program to explore how bioscience can be used to increase energy production and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment. The following are the highlights:

(a) The intellectual property consisted of a "yours, mine and ours" model, which meant each party retained the rights to all of the work done at their campus facilities but had to share ownership of projects developed at joint sites (BP set up labs on both campuses)

(b) It included a clause that gave the energy company a royalty-free, nonexclusive license to commercialize the results of the collaboration

(c) BP could buy exclusive rights by paying the other two parties US $100,000 per year per invention.

(d) In the event this group developed a blockbuster technology, Lawrence Berkeley and the universities could renegotiate with BP for a bigger piece of the pie.

This deal can become a model for others to follow

Ref: When universities and businesses collaborate, it's "yours, mine and ours" by Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American Observations, Dec 8, 2009