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At UIDP, We Don’t Just Think About Improving Negotiations—We Work at It!

Existing Relationship = Problem Solved

A major corporation was having problems with its long-time university partner. The company researcher and professor agreed that the results of one project would not be published, but the university’s administration was uncomfortable about placing limitations on publishing.

An unusual conference call ensued which included the researchers, contract negotiators, and senior research administrators from both the company and the university. After a five-minute conversation about the weather, the university vice president of research asked the faculty member about the publishing problem. The faculty member said that no journal would even be interested in publishing the  work because it was just an application of previous research to the company’s product.  It took this discussion among key people to conclude that there wasn’t a problem at all.

Within 15 minutes, the problem was solved. Because of an existing relationship between the two parties, they were able to come together and remember to just ask “why” or “why not,” rather than spend months working around the issue.

In U-I Negotiations, Working Relationships Count

A scenario such as the one described above may seem commonplace to current University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) members. But at the time the exchange took place, the concept that working relationships between individuals in university and industry–including the researchers themselves–improve the ability to get things done was in its infancy.

The University-Industry Partnership evolved from an organization that deliberated and wrote white papers about university-industry relationships to one that focused more on how better university-industry working relationships could be implemented.

The creation of UIDP can be traced back to the University-Industry Partnership, which consisted of approximately 35 individuals that were assembled by the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) and the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA). This group evolved from one that deliberated and wrote white papers about university-industry relationships to one that focused more on how better university-industry working relationships could be implemented. Those involved in the University-Industry Partnership had come to realize that they needed a more formal organization that would focus on personal working relationships among practitioners and find a way to streamline intellectual property negotiations.

It took a while for everyone in the University-Industry Partnership to support the idea that getting people from industry and academia together to work out issues was desirable: some felt that bringing people together would amount to “betraying sides.” University-Industry Partnership leadership reached out to the other organizations, including the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) to convince people that UIDP was a positive force working to fulfilling an important need in the university-industry relations.

Moving Towards Improved U-I Negotiations

The main project of the University-Industry Partnership was Turbo Negotiator, a software tool to help negotiating parties address important considerations and collect pertinent information prior to the negotiating process. Although negotiations still often are done the “old fashioned” way, today there are people on both sides who understand why a company or university takes the position that it takes on certain contract clauses. There are also people who understand that giving certain terms to their strategic partner is not the same as giving those terms to an organization with which you are conducting a one-off deal. Guiding Principles for University-Industry Endeavors, published in April 2006, details the thinking of the University Industry Partnership conclusions about best practices in U-I negotiations.

Contract Accords Now a Centerpiece of UIDP’s Mission

UIDP has moved on from Turbo Negotiator, now emphasizing the Contract Accords and even more personalized, one-on-one pre-contracting discussions among negotiators. Each Contract Accord tackles a specific contentious contracting issue and presents both the corporate and academic perspectives on the issues.

UIDP members can access UIDP information and training on the UIDP website: click on these links to download the UIDP publications Contract Accords 1-10 and Contract Accords 11-15, sign up for the UIDP Academy Contracting Webinar Series, or watch the UIDP Academy Contract Accords Videos.

Where are You on the Partnership Continuum?

As UIDP has evolved, it has also clarified the drivers for successful partnerships. As noted in the UIDP publication, Partnership Continuum [members-only access], “…academia and industry interact with each other in myriad ways—some simple, some complex, some easy to establish, some requiring many years of prior interaction to establish, some achieving their goals, and some failing to do so.” In this publication, the working group classified university-industry interaction into various categories of partnership. Read more about the Partnership Continuum here.