Establishing a Research Lab

University research “labs” are the channel through which companies can most easily engage with doctoral students and faculty.

As a doctoral program, we look at analytical research labs as the data science equivalent of a "teaching hospital" for medical students.

These labs roughly assume one of two forms: a fee-based membership in a multi- organizational consortium or single company/single university partnerships.

Tlie most prevalent example of large multi-organizational research consortiums that engage universities, companies and government are aligned with the National Science Foundations Industry—University Cooperative Research Centers16 (IUCRC) started in 1973- From the NSF website:

IUCRC (Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers) enable industrially relevant, pre-competitive research via a multi-member, sustained partnerships among industry, academe, and government.

NSF supports the development and evolution of IUCRCs, providing a financial and procedural framework for membership and operations in addition to best practices learned over decades of fostering public/pri- vate partnerships that provide significant value to the nation, industry and university faculty and students.

As an aside, university faculty love to brag about their NSF funding. If you ever meet a professor in a bar, ask them about their NSF grants. They will buy the drinks.

One example of a recent IUCRC-funded analytics research center is the Center for Accelerated Real Time Analytics (CARTA)17, which includes Rutgers University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and North Carolina State University. From the CARTA website:

The use of Data Analytics has become the “cover charge” for private and public organizations that want to provide high levels of service to their clients and customers. However, data is no longer limited to static repositories that can be analyzed at will, but now includes live, moving data sources such as video, voice, social networking, and the Internet of Tilings (IoT) that must be integrated across multiple sources to provide immediate, real-time decision support. Extracting value from massive and moving data hinges on balancing fundamental research, technological know-how, and commercial market intelligence.

To meet these needs, CARTA research intends to

■ develop cutting-edge tools, approaches, and expertise that will significantly lower the barriers of entry into advanced, real-time analytics;

■ connect members to advanced technologies and tools for easier, more efficient, and more meaningful data fusion and analytics;

■ provide our members with access to multidisciplinary analytics expertise;

■ build project-specific teams to optimize talent resources fast turnaround environment; and

■ offer member organizations first access to our advanced analytics talent stream.

To participate in these types of IUCRC consortiums, companies pay a membership fee between $150,000 and $250,000 per year. These funds are then used to offset or “buy out” faculty salaries and support student research stipends. Research centers like this typically have a university director, affiliated faculty and multiple graduate students. The findings, publications, patents, and other research products are typically “co-owned” by the membership of the consortium.

One example of an individual organization/single university partnership is Kroger’s Innovation Lab at the University of Cincinnati18. The Innovation Lab creates mutual benefit for both the University as well as for Kroger.

Chris Hjelm, who was the EVP and CIO for Kroger at the time the Lab was created said,

Kroger’s new partnership with the University of Cincinnati is one more way we are investing to create the now andfuture of retail... This innovative collaboration ... provides the Kroger Technology team another creative space to partner and develop solutions to redefine the grocery customer experience ... (the Lab) is a coworking community where we will build and discover the next generation of technology and talent... Our vision is to create a talent pipeline that supports our business and positions the region as a place for digital and technology students and professionals.

University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto added,

Working with a hometown company and one of the world’s largest retailers gives our university an opportunity to make an impact not only locally but also globally. This is the kind of partnership that allows our students and faculty to work on real-world challenges in a cross-disciplinary way, while offering our corporate partners added value with access to talent, expertise, research, creativity, and specialized equipment and technology.

Given that Kroger is headquartered in Cincinnati (in close proximity to the University), this is a great example of local collaboration which will also benefit the community,

Our mantra for any local business community is "Eat Local, Shop Local, Hire Local".

While the details of the agreement were not disclosed, Kroger likely provided University of Cincinnati with a fixed research grant and will likely co-own the intellectual property generated through the lab. Students who work in the lab are also likely the “top candidates” for positions at Kroger headquarters after graduation.

While the specifics of university/corporate partner research labs vary, the primary topics that need to be addressed very early in the process include:

■ Who owns the rights to any intellectual property (including patents) developed in the lab?

■ Who owns the rights to “publish” against the findings (and definitions related to “publication” need to be agreed upon)? As a rule, we do not engage in any research labs that would preclude our doctoral students from having the ability to publish their work.

■ How is the funding allocated/restricted? Is it tightly specified? Or does the university have discretion over how the funds are allocated?

Here is an example of the verbiage from one university’s intellectual property clause when establishing a research lab:

Ownership of any intellectual property, including but not limited to confidential information, patents, copyrights, design rights, rights to computer software, and any other intellectual property rights, developed or created prior to this Agreement shall remain with the owner. Any intellectual property developed or created by Sponsor and the UNIVERSITYfaculty and students whose participation was arranged by UNIVERSITY, shall be owned jointly by UNIVERSITY and Sponsor. UNIVERSITY agrees that it will grant a royalty-free worldwide, exclusive, perpetual license to the Sponsor, with a field of use limited to xxx. Sponsor agrees to bear the cost of filing for patent protection for said intellectual property. For uses outside of the xxx industry, UNIVERSITY and Sponsor are free to license the intellectual property to others, but any income received for said licensing, or from any other use of the intellectual property, shall be shared with the other joint owner on a 50—50 basis.

Because patentable concepts that can be monetized almost always represent an expected outcome from these types of engagements, here is an example of verbiage related to patents:

UNIVERSITY and Sponsor shall promptly provide in confidence a complete written discbsure to each other of any Invention first conceived or discovered in the performance of the work funded under this Agreement.

If requested by Sponsor in writing within thirty (30) days of the complete written disclosure, UNIVERSITY shall, at Sponsor’s request and expense, pursue and obtain patent protection for a UNIVERSITY Invention in consultation with Sponsor. If Sponsor requests that UNIVERSITYpursue protection on any such Invention, and so long as Sponsor continues to pay patent costs for such Invention, Sponsor shall have a one hundred eighty (180) day period from the date that UNIVERSITYfiles for patent protection for the UNIVERSITY Invention or from the filing date of a Joint Invention, to negotiate the terms of a license agreement and UNIVERSITY and Sponsor agree to negotiate these license terms in good faith. During this period, UNIVERSITY will not offer a commercial license to any other party. In the event Sponsor does not request that UNIVERSITYpursue patent protection within the thirty (30) day period after the complete written disclosure of the Invention, UNIVERSITY may file at its own expense and Sponsor shall have no further rights to that patent application or that Invention.

Returning to the topic of publication, a university may be willing to assign the monetary rights of the intellectual property over to the company collaborator/ sponsor, but they will likely want to ensure that the faculty and doctoral students will retain the ability to publish against the work in perpetuity - without divulging confidential or compromising information. Again, the ability to have innovative research published in a peer-reviewed outlet is a high priority and a primary incentive for both faculty and for doctoral students. In the example verbiage below, the University will share the proposed publication in advance with the research sponsor, NOT for the purposes of influencing the results in any way, but rather to give the sponsor the opportunity to ensure that no confidential information is included:

It is important to UNIVERSITY and its faculty and students that the right to publish and present information about research activities be unfettered. Subject to the limitations below, UNIVERSITY and UNIVERSITY personnel shall be free to publish and present data, information, and other research results arising from the research. UNIVERSITY agrees to provide Sponsor, in confidence, with an advanced copy of any publication resulting from the Research not less than thirty (30) calendar days prior to the submission to a journal or any other public disclosure in order to give Sponsor an opportunity to request removal of any of its proprietary or confidential information. If requested by Sponsor, UNIVERSITY agrees to remove any Confidential Information of the Sponsor from the publication or presentation. If Sponsor has not responded within fifteen (15) calendar days, UNIVERSITY shall send a second notice to Sponsor about its need to review the submission. If Sponsor has not responded within fifteen (15) calendar days ofthis notice, UNIVERSITY and UNIVERSITY may move forward with publication or other public disclosure. At the request of the Sponsor within this thirty-day period referenced above, UNIVERSITY agrees to delay the publication for a period of up to sixty (60) days from the date the publication or presentation was originally provided to the Sponsor so that any relevant patent applications may be filed.

The topic of funding will obviously also need to be discussed. From a university perspective, there are typically a list of “non-negotiable” costs that they will have to cover:

■ Offset of faculty salary. In effect, the research grant will be used to “buy out” faculty time to spend on the research.

■ Graduate student research stipends. Graduate students are almost always funded through research activity. They need a great deal of care and feeding.

■ Overhead or “Indirects”. Universities will apply a percentage to the top number of a research grant that will be allocated to the budgets of the office of research and to college deans to be used to support the research infrastructure of the university (very little goes to fund exotic vacations).

 
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