U of M Tries New Approach to Industry-Funded Research

The university said that a new initiative-called Minnesota Innovation Partnership-will help eliminate prolonged negotiations with businesses over rights to research that they sponsor at the university.

The University of Minnesota on Friday unveiled an initiative that it hopes will make it easier for businesses to partner with the university on research projects.

Under the new Minnesota Innovation Partnerships (MN-IP) program, companies that sponsor research at the university will be able to pre-pay a fee and receive a worldwide patent on the intellectual property. Royalties to the university would kick in only if the intellectual property generates annual sales of more than $20 million, and the royalty fee would total 1 percent of sales.

To land an exclusive license, a business would pay a fee equal to 10 percent of the cost of the research contract, or $15,000, depending on which amount is greater.

The university said that the program-which takes effect immediately-eliminates “protracted negotiations” over rights to research funded by businesses. Previously, industry-funded research involved complicated contracts that made the process “frustrating, time-consuming, and counter-productive to effective partnerships,” according to the university.

In 2010, the university began evaluating its approach by looking at other institutions and consulting with businesses.

“Using feedback from business partners who often criticized the university's traditional approach, Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy and his team have come up with a new approach that is a true game-changer,” U of M President Eric Kaler said in a statement. “We expect that MN-IP will make the University of Minnesota a research destination of choice for major corporate partners looking to sponsor research at a world-class research university.”

The university collected $769 million in research money in 2011, a dip from $823 million last year that primarily reflected the decline in federal stimulus funds, according to a Pioneer Press report. In the past decade, the university has reportedly seen gains in overall research sponsorships, but only about 4 percent of all sponsored research came from businesses.