Who is this for?
- Principals, Deans, Academic Directors, and Chairs
- Professor, Faculty Member
- Research Team Member
- External Partner
The University of Toronto’s (U of T) global reputation as a top research university attracts industry partners from across Canada and around the world. Over the last decade, UofT has worked with over 600 different industry partners. Each company may have its own rationale for working with the university, but most seek to connect with U of T’s research excellence and expertise, the opportunity to engage with students and trainees, and to co-develop new ideas and innovations that can be moved into domestic and global markets. These partnerships augment and enrich the training and research activities at the university and their impacts. Through these partnerships the university is able to secure resources and tools (i.e. hardware, materials, software, and data) that help expand impact and scope of our research and discovery efforts, while also helping prepare students for future careers and employment.
Know Your Strengths
A first step is to identify your key areas of expertise that may be of interest to potential partners. You should also be ready to discuss your research interests and capabilities in terms suitable to a potential partner seeking a solution to a particular problem, but may not have deep scientific expertise. It is also important to seek out potential partners and areas for collaboration that are aligned with your own research interests.
Networking to Establish Relationships
Your division may have resources to help you connect with potential industry partners in addition to the Partnership & Business Development team within the Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO). Many researchers also have their own substantial formal or informal networks of potential collaborators, including industry researchers. These connections are often made at scientific or other conferences, correspondence via publications, and through your academic colleagues at U of T or other universities. Maintaining a broad network of colleagues from diverse organizations can help identify partnership opportunities and appropriate individuals within potential partner organizations. You can also learn about new partnerships through U of T’s Research Alerts and the Funding Opportunities Database.
Once an initial connection has been established with a potential partner, an in-person meeting is often an important next step. As discussions become more detailed, some partners may require a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement (CDA). Please contact IPO if a CDA is required.
As you progress into the proposal and planning stages, be prepared to identify realistic goals, timelines and budgets for any proposed activities. It will also be important to clarify how the partner will contribute to the research in terms of funding the direct and indirect costs at the university. The partner may also make important contributions including time commitments of their personnel, data, materials, use of equipment, etc. These important contributions along with many other items will eventually become part of a sponsored research agreement (SRA) between the university and the company that will define the contractual relationship and the expectations of all parties.
It is important to ensure all parties understand and agree on intellectual property (IP) ownership and rights. In nearly all research engagements, IP is typically categorized in terms of ‘Background’ or ‘Foreground’.
‘Background IP’ refers to any proprietary knowledge, techniques and know-how (patented or not) created before the start of the project, but that is necessary for the performance of the proposed research. It is important that all parties clearly define what (if any) background IP they plan on using in the project and how the other party may (or may not) also use this background IP. It is not uncommon that each party will provide the other with rights to use the background IP for the performance and duration of the defined project.
‘Foreground IP’ refers to proprietary know-how, techniques, knowledge (patentable or not) that may be generated in the course of the project. Many factors can affect the ownership and rights to this IP. Please contact IPO for guidance and any questions regarding IP.
It is also important to note that it is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to ensure all project participants, whether or not paid from the research agreement funds, are aware of the conditions contained in the executed research agreement. The confidential information & intellectual property (CIIP) agreement is used by the PI to document the agreement of each project participant to comply with the terms of the research agreement.
Identify Eligible Research Funding Opportunities
There are a number of federal and provincial programs that may provide matching and leveraging opportunities for industry-university research partnerships. These programs can augment the scope and scale of the research engagement. Some examples include the NSERC-Alliance program, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), and Mitacs to name a few. Please refer the U of T Research Funding Database, Research Alerts or the Partnership & Business Development Officers in IPO to help identify eligible funding programs related to industry partnerships.
IPO manages the negotiation and execution of partnering agreements and facilitates access to the funds for the research. IPO will also help coordinate access to various funding agencies to augment the project budget. If required, IPO will assist in identifying and protecting intellectual property along with negotiating and facilitating IP rights with our partners.
For more information on how to apply for research funding and obtaining institutional endorsement on research agreements and applications please see Partner with the Community / Industry for a Funding Application.
- Build successful partnerships between industry and the U of T research community
- Facilitate the introductions between the industry partner and the appropriate researchers at U of T
- Assist in the development of the relationship and identifying partnership opportunities