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Our approach to partnering with business

The University of Exeter’s reputation as a reliable and trusted partner for business is based on many years of successful and mutually advantageous collaborations, in our region, nationally and globally. The University operates as an independent charity undertaking research and education for the public good and some of our practices may be unfamiliar to business partners. Therefore, we have set out below some of our key principles for working with the private sector.

Protecting your confidentiality

We treat your sensitive information confidentially. Confidentiality agreements or confidentiality clauses are used in our contracts.

Setting up agreements

We set up agreements to cover any work undertaken. This ensures everyone's rights and responsibilities are clear. In most cases contracts are entered into by the University but we may use our wholly owned commercial companies, University of Exeter Consulting Ltd or Peninsula Innovations Ltd depending on the nature of the work. We aim to develop and execute agreements in a timely and efficient manner by using market-facing templates tailored to the nature of the work. If you wish to use your own template agreements we would be happy to explore this with you but please be aware negotiating these may take longer.

Costing projects fairly

University of Exeter’s research projects include direct project costs (such as salaries, materials, etc) plus any indirect costs that any private sector provider of similar services would incur (such as maintenance of equipment, facilities and buildings, administrative support and the cost of employing staff).

Fair and reasonable Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Our approach to IPR is transparent and recognises the commercial imperatives of providing access to, or ownership of IPR to meet your needs.

Normally all parties retain ownership of the ideas that they bring to the project (Background IPR) and we agree on how to exploit new developments that emerge during the project (Foreground IP) depending on which party is best placed to do so.

If you fund the work entirely then you will usually own the IPR or we will issue you with an exclusive licence to use the IPR. If the project is funded by mixed sources, we aim for fair and reasonable outcomes relating to IPR ownership and exploitation arrangements to respect the rights of the other parties as well. Typically this entails offering you a free, exclusive evaluation licence if you wish to develop the IPR further with a full royalty-bearing license agreed once there is a clearer idea of the market potential. We can also consider fixed-price upfront options on licences – usually set as a percentage of the total research contract price.  This can provide confidence and security to all parties involved.

Like any employer, the University owns the IP generated by University academics but it generally shares with them the financial success of any commercially exploitable IP for which they are the inventor through revenue sharing agreements. This helps align their interests to the successful outcome of the project.

Publishing results

Due to our publicly funded and charitable nature we are committed to publishing the outcomes of research we are involved in so that we can provide access to new knowledge, demonstrate its quality and impact through peer review and demonstrate our public benefit and impact. This is a key factor in the way we are funded. Publishing as quickly as possible is therefore, vital and we welcome joint publications with businesses. However, we do recognise that some commercial drivers may prevent or restrict this. We will normally agree with you a mechanism for making sure that any ideas are protected before they are published, including maximum delay periods.

Freedom to use the results for education and research purposes

As a charitable teaching and research organisation, we must also be able to use our ideas for teaching, research or clinical practice or even to commercially develop the outcomes in other fields. Therefore, we usually require a licence back to enable us to use the results or methodologies for these purposes. Otherwise, the work will be provided through University of Exeter Consulting Ltd and the fee for service will reflect our lack of access to the IPR we have helped develop.

Warranties and liabilities

We will carry out work to high standards of excellence and ethical conduct and we reserve the right to decline work which does not match these standards. As a publicly funded, charitable institution, we are unable to accept unlimited liability for your use of the results nor can we provide wide-ranging warranties.

Delivering project outcomes

Research is about discovery and outcomes are unpredictable, so we cannot guarantee any specific outcome. During the course of a project we may be able to change the specification to take advantage of unexpected results but this can lead to increased costs, however, no changes will be made to the specification or costs without a prior agreement.

Requests for information

We often need to demonstrate the value of our work with partners through data collection exercises or case studies, particularly to show our impact on society. We may ask you to respond to these requests for information and we would appreciate your collaboration and input in this.