University researchers wanting funding from the government’s $2 billion commercialisation package will have to agree to standardised IP agreements with their business partners, but the Coalition has walked back its plan to apply them more widely this year.
The standardised agreements were proposed last year during a review of university research commercialisation to speed up negotiations and unlock university IP.
The approach has been common overseas for years and the agreements cover things like collaborative research, licence agreements, material transfer, copyright licences and non-disclosure agreements between universities and businesses.
But while optional overseas and often used as a starting point for negotiation, the Australian government proposed a mandatory regime known as Higher Education Research Commercialisation (HERC) IP Framework that would apply to nearly all publicly funded research being commercialised.
The mandatory approach was quickly criticised by universities and researchers, who asked for a delayed roll out and pilot before an opt in model.
The final HERC IP Framework is yet to be released, despite the initial proposal having a start time of last month. The $2 billion Research Commercialisation Action Plan announced this week by the Coalition indicates the framework will be mandatory but provides few new details.
InnovationAus has confirmed the framework will only initially be applied to new funding programs under the action plan, rather than all Education department administered funding for research commercialisation as initially proposed.
“The Higher Education Research Commercialisation (HERC) IP Framework will only apply to university-led IP developed with the assistance of Trailblazers Universities Program and Australia’s Economic Accelerator funding,” a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment said.
“The roll-out of the scheme will be overseen by a governing advisory committee with the sector and its extension to other programs will be considered over time.”
The Economic Accelerator program offers university researchers funding of around $150 million a year under, released under a gated program as research is translated into viable businesses.
The Trailblazers Universities Program offers four universities up to $50 million each to establish industry-targeted, commercial research hubs that aim to foster increased collaboration with the business community. Eight universities have been shortlisted for the program and are currently preparing detailed business cases.
This means researchers and industry partners will need to use standardised agreements for IP sharing for any research commercialised out of the Accelerator and Trailblazers programs.
The earlier HERC IP framework suggests deals under $100,000 will require standardised agreements, with little room to adjust terms. Complex agreements above $100,000 or involving multiple parties would allow more flexibility in the use of standard agreements.
Various stakeholders have raised several problems with adopting too rigid an approach, including locking out smaller innovative industry partners and making Australian universities less competitive with overseas researchers.
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