Collaborating with third parties and contract research
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel supports all R&D activities throughout the entire process, from scientific discovery and exploration of new knowledge, to invention and development.
Because collaboration results in more value and creativity for all the partners involved than an individual investment of resources, the university establishes alliances with regional and worldwide economic players, the non-profit sector, policy makers and governments. In this network of synergies, it’s not always easy to align the interests of all stakeholders. The handbook ‘Responsible Partnering’ issued by the European Commission highlights maximum beneficial use of public research and responsible use of public research and proposes a set of actionable guidelines to implement them. This for instance involves treating collaboration strategically, organizing lasting relationships and establishing clear intent. It is a valuable tool for any researcher planning to interact with the industry. In the context of a research collaboration or when providing scientific services, the university is subject to a legal and regulatory framework when collaborating with companies and other third parties.
The provisions thereof are set by:
- the Code "Hoger Onderwijs" of December 20, 2013 which contains provisions with regards to the ownership of inventions and the scientific or social services by universities or university colleges and with regard to relationships of universities or university colleges with other legal entities;
- the University Code on scientific and social services;
- the University Code on overheads;
- the University Code on valorization.
The transfer of knowledge from the university to industry generates financial return to the university which subsequently can be reinvested in research. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel has developed a policy and code on the transfer of these research results to industry. The UAB Code on technology transfer can be summarised as follows:
- all research results obtained by researchers within the framework of their relationship with the VUB/EhB (so no master students!) are the property of VUB/EhB;
- all research results capable of commercialization or social implementation must be notified to the VUB TechTransfer prior to publication in order to assess the need for protection (using the invention disclosure form available at VUB TechTransfer);
- researchers shall provide all due assistance to the VUB/EhB during the technology transfer process;
- the VUB/EhB organizes the transfer of research results by a primary or a secondary procedure. The primary procedure denotes the procedure financed by the patent fund of the VUB or the EhB. The decision to initiate the primary procedure is taken after receipt of the disclosure form. If the VUB/EhB decides not to start or to stop the primary procedure, the research team is authorized to continue the secondary procedure autonomously at their own expense;
all income acquired during the primary valorization procedure is distributed as follows:
- one third of the net income (income after deduction of central management costs, overheads, and technology transfer costs, including costs for IP protection and possible taxes) is for the VUB/EhB patent fund;
- two thirds, minus a possible deduction of a personal fee to the inventors, shall be awarded to the research team(s) to finance further scientific research;
- a personal fee can be paid to the researchers and can’t exceed a total of more than one third of the net income. The Board of Directors of the VUB must decide upon the payment of a personal fee to the researchers upon their demand.
Every – however small – collaboration must be formalised in an agreement in order to confine legal risks. When negotiating a collaboration agreement, you should inform and consult the legal advisors of the VUB TechTransfer in time. While preparing your deal setup, keep the following issues in mind.
A detailed description of the tasks to be performed by the VUB/EhB is essential, in particular with regard to the definition of the results.
The total cost for the execution of a research project comprises the following elements:
- all costs with regard to personnel, working, equipment and any other cost related to the project;
- 21% Value-Added Tax (VAT). The financial department of the VUB/EhB is responsible for the invoicing, but this needs to be initiated by the promotor.
Intellectual Property rights
Background knowledge of the VUB/EhB (already existing knowledge of the VUB/EhB which was not generated in execution of the project) remains at all times the ownership of the VUB/EhB and user rights can be granted under conditions to be agreed. The results generated in execution of the project can be made available under different forms (transfer of ownership, granting an exclusive/non-exclusive license, co-ownership, etc….) To be agreed on a case by case basis!
The right to publish has to be safeguarded and can be made subject to conditions to be agreed (when necessary for protection of confidential information or the research results). Fair financial return. In case the results can be valorized, a fair financial return needs to be granted to the university.
Warranties - Liability
The execution of a project can only be done on a “best effort” basis. No warranties whatsoever can be granted. A limitation of liability of the VUB/EhB is essential.
Applicable law – Dispute resolution
Belgian law and the courts of Brussels have jurisdiction.
Screening and signing of contracts
Each contract needs to be screened by VUB TechTransfer. Only the rector (VUB) or general manager (EhB) is authorized to sign contracts! Promotors and co-promotors can co-sign.
Need to know more? Download the full version of VUB TechTransfer's "Knowledge, innovation and technology transfer issues. Finding your way through the jungle".