UIDP Contracting Forum Speaker Spotlight: Elizabeth Adams, Princeton University
Elizabeth H. Adams is director of the Office of Research and Project Administration at Princeton University. She will present sessions at UIDP Contracting Forum 2020 on master agreements, visiting scholar/research agreements and service agreements.
UIDP: What are some of the benefits of master research agreements for industry and university partners?
Adams: The first and perhaps clearest benefit is efficiency. Master agreements tend to allow collaborators to move very quickly when potential work or a technical need has been identified. If a high level of engagement and a strong working relationship has already been established with a particular collaborator, a next natural step may indeed be to invest time in negotiating a master agreement. Once a master is in place, the parties would no longer be negotiating with each other via a series of one-off agreements—which can be time-consuming. Ultimately, master agreements are an efficient vehicle in proportion to the amount of work that the parties actually do together under that master. It’s important to note that it may not be appropriate to establish a master agreement with a new collaborator, and that not all relationships are well-suited for master agreements.
Another benefit of master agreements is that they tend to allow for broader engagement between collaborators. Given that master agreements are typically organization-wide, they can permit collaborators to readily move from a more specific or narrow relationship to a more well-rounded one. Under master agreements, I’ve found that companies tend to increase the number of disciplines and departments with which they engage at the university.
Finally, a master research agreement can be a platform that transforms a trusted collaborator into a strategic partner. Accordingly, master agreements occasionally include more preferential terms—on both sides—than those you might find in a one-off agreement.
UIDP: What is one key change in the contracting landscape over the past three years that makes the UIDP Contracting Forum a can’t-miss learning opportunity?
Adams: Organizations are increasingly willing to take business risks to add value to their organizations and distinguish themselves. To be clear, I’m talking about calculated risks, responsible risks. I’ve found industry and universities are more willing than ever to engage in new and unconventional ways to make each other better. It’s an exciting time for university-industry collaborations. And we’re all working in a competitive landscape. Your organization has to have a contracting skill set ready to engage in this kind of environment.