Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, a.k.a. I/UCRC?
An I/UCRC is an industry/university cooperative research center funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and largely by industry members, with the following objectives:

  • To pursue industrially relevant, precompetitive research.
  • To prepare graduates with broad, industrially oriented perspectives.
  • To accelerate the transfer of knowledge and technology from academia to industry.

2. What is the Center for Biophotonic Sensors and Systems (CBSS)?
CBSS is a multi-site I/UCRC that brings scientists from Boston University and UC Davis together with industry for precompetitive research projects where biophotonics provides the enabling technology for detecting/sensing and identifying biological properties, conditions, or changes at the molecular and cellular/sub-cellular level. Additional universities may join the Center at a later date.

3. How much does it cost to join the Center?
Membership fees are $50,000 annually for a full membership. Large corporations may have multiple business units participate with individual membership fees. NSF mandates a 10% indirect cost return, so that 90% of the I/UCRC membership goes directly to research. A company (or business unit) may purchase multiple memberships and therefore have a greater impact on the Center’s research direction. NSF SBIR Phase II companies may apply to NSF for supplemental funds, to get 90% of the annual membership fee subsidized.  The Center also has an option for an Associate membership, with fees being $25,000 annually.

Industry members, including Associate members, name one representative to the Center’s Industry Advisory Board (IAB).  Voting rights may vary depending on the financial commitment to the Center.

4. Who is eligible?
Any company, US federal research and development organization, or any government-owned, contractor operated laboratory is eligible for membership.

5. Why should I become a member?
CBSS research provides direct value to members through member-driven research agenda. The IAB votes on proposed projects that are both scientifically meritorious and that align with the industry members’ interests.

There are numerous benefits to membership including:

    • Access to graduate students and early-career researchers for recruitment.
    • Access to world-class scientists and facilities, which allows building long-term relationships with leading faculty researchers in biophotonics.
    • Network with key players in industry, peers, and customers.
    • Leveraged research investment and risk mitigation through the pooling of resources from all members.
    • Low indirect costs, mandated by NSF (10% vs. up to 65% for sponsored research).
    • Additional grant opportunities.
    • Industry-driven, precompetitive research that lies between basic research and corporate (proprietary) research.
    • Access to results pre-publication.
    • Early opportunities to secure IP via royalty-free nonexclusive license or royalty-bearing exclusive license (if only one industry member pursues licensing).

6. What is precompetitive research?
Precompetitive research is research that lies between basic research (usually conducted in academia and federal laboratories) and corporate research (proprietary).

7. What are the rules about access to intellectual property (IP)?
Each CBSS member has access to royalty-free, non-exclusive licenses for all the IP developed with the Center’s membership fees. This includes IP developed at both CBSS sites (Boston University and UC Davis). If a member wishes to obtain exclusive licensing, this is arranged through the university where the IP was created and the licensing process is the same as for IP created under sponsored research projects.

8. Can we do proprietary research at the Center?
The mandate of the CBSS is to carry out early stage, precompetitive research, as well as build long-term partnerships. If through membership in the Center and relationships developed with faculty researchers a proprietary research project is identified, CBSS will work with industry members to take those projects out of the Center and into sponsored research projects to protect IP. Outcomes like these are very desirable under the I/UCRC mission.

9. What is the length of the commitment?
Due to the early stage nature of the research undertaken at the CBSS, members should plan on a commitment of at least two years in order to reap the benefits of research results. Generally, companies participate for many years in I/UCRC centers, with over 760 total members in 61 NSF I/UCRC Centers in FY2011. Members can terminate their membership by giving six months written notice.

10. What are some examples of research projects funded by CBSS?
Below are titles of projects eligible for funding or which received funding via CBSS:

  • Photo-thermal microscopy – S. Erramilli, Boston University
  • Adaptively compensated 3-D bio-imaging – T. Bifano, Boston University
  • Label-free nanofluidic-nanoplasmonic biosensor – H. Altug, Boston University
  • Rapid diagnostics for UTI – L. Ziegler, Boston University
  • Label-free, non-genetic method to purify stem cell derived cardiomyocytes – J. Chan, UC Davis
  • Monitoring drug dose response of single cells using micro-Raman spectroscopy – J. Chan, UCD
  • Cell phone microscope and spectrometer for POC diagnosis – S. Wachsmann-Hogiu, UC Davis
  • Direct molecular detection via SERS and aptamers – S. Wachsmann-Hogiu, UC Davis
  • OCT for non-invasive 3-D imaging of tissue morphology and blood perfusion – R. Zawadzki, UC Davis
  • Adaptive optics enhanced hybrid fluorescence and OCT imaging systems – R. Zawadzki, UCD

11. How are research projects selected?
Faculty members propose projects in writing and give short presentations at annual meetings of the IAB. The IAB members vote on projects of interest to them. Each purchased membership grants one vote. Center members can and do influence the nature of the projects proposed and prior discussions between members and faculty are encouraged to ensure that desirable proposals of direct interest to the membership are submitted.

Note: First year membership fees may be directed to a specific project of interest to the new member company. Project renewals are subject to the IAB voting process.

For more information, please contact:

  • Thomas Bifano, PhD, Boston University, Center Director , 617-353-8899,
  • Thomas Dudley, Boston University, Center Operations Director, 617-358-4924,
  • Gabriela Lee, MS, MBA, UC Davis Industry Liaison, 916-734-1775,
  • James Chan, PhD, UC Davis Site Director,

10/27/15 -- Boston, Massachusetts Professor Enrico Bellotti with students in a Photonics lab on October 27, 2015. Photo by Christopher McIntosh for Boston University Photography