One way to help your research impact society is through direct industry collaboration. This collaboration can take many forms, including industry-sponsored research.

When the strategic business interests of industry align with the interests of University researchers, a company may choose to sponsor University research to advance a common goal. These collaborations not only provide value to the sponsor, but advance the researcher’s academic interests forward and may provide an experiential opportunity for University students.

Industry-sponsored research typically has a commercial objective focused on delivering value to their customers. Researchers are more typically interested in bringing an idea to market to benefit society. Industry can be a powerful ally in this pursuit when these objectives align. Industry collaborations differ in important ways from purely academic or non-industry collaborations (e.g., federal/foundation sponsorship), which are more often focused on advancing research for knowledge’s sake. (Contact Sponsored Programs with questions about non-industry sponsored research.)

Read on for information about what to expect when you’re collaborating with industry, the forms you may need along the way, and how BU’s Industry Engagement office can help at every stage.

Getting Started

If you’ve heard from a company interested in your work or need help finding an industry sponsor, reach out to Industry Engagement. Companies may have many different ideas on how they may want to work with researchers at the University, and we can help sort through the options to find the best approach for you.

Industry Engagement can help you learn more about a company’s needs, explore how they fit with your own research areas, and make sure that the company’s requests are in line with BU’s research, policies, and educational mission.

Formalizing an Agreement

Below are a few of the forms and resources available to initiate a collaboration with an industry partner. If you’re not sure which form is right for you, reach out to Industry Engagement.

  • Clinical Trial Agreement: Reach out as soon as an industry study has been identified or as soon as an external entity has approached a BU researcher for potential participation as a clinical trial site.
  • Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement: Often a company will require a confidentiality disclosure agreement (CDA) or nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to protect proprietary or non-public information that is disclosed in the course of evaluating a possible relationship between the University and the company. 
  • Data Use Agreement: A data use agreement (DUA) is a contractual document used for the transfer of data between the University and an external entity, where the data is nonpublic or is otherwise subject to some restrictions on its use. 
  • Fee-for-service Agreement: Occasionally, industry will tap BU researchers to provide a specific service for a fee.
  • Material Transfer Agreement (MTA): Sometimes in exploring opportunities, a company or an external researcher may agree to share certain proprietary materials that will require an incoming MTA. Other times, you may want to share materials that you have developed in your lab with an outside entity, in which case  an outgoing MTA will be used.
  • Sponsored Research Agreement: Sponsored Research Agreements (SRAs) are used when an industry sponsor funds a specific research project for a defined time period and in return receives certain deliverables such as research data, reports, and certain rights to your and the University’s intellectual and tangible property.
  • Unfunded Collaboration Research Agreement: A contract between collaborators who are participating in a project in which no funds are exchanged (e.g., no-cost loan of equipment, in-kind support).
  • Other Transactions: If you need support with corporate gifts or another type of industry transaction not listed above, contact Industry Engagement.

Sample Plan

Download this Excel document if you would like a detailed set of actions to refer to as you consider your next steps.

Download in Excel

    Contact Industry Engagement

    The Industry Engagement office offers resources to support all these options and to help you explore next steps. Reach out to schedule a consultation.

    Contact Industry Engagement