Intellectual assets

It’s important to make arrangements for managing the intellectual assets generated by research projects. We encourage the exploitation of the results of all the research we fund.

What are intellectual assets?

Intellectual assets extend beyond intellectual property rights (such as patents, trademarks, copyright and design rights) which provide legal protection to include know-how, processes and trade secrets – all of which may be developed during a research project.

Our approach to Intellectual Assets

EPSRC makes no claim to the Intellectual Assets arising from the research and training that it supports. Since EPSRC has no research institutes of its own, responsibility for managing intellectual assets arising from the research and training that we support is delegated to the funded organisation. EPSRC suggests a flexible approach and does not lay down any prescriptive rules about how Intellectual Assets (IA) should be identified or managed.

Agreements between partners will need to reflect the circumstances of each case, and should be put in place before projects begin.

We expect universities to manage their IA and to make sure that those generating the IA get appropriate benefit from its exploitation. Unless arrangements have been made in advance, our guideline is that IA resides with its generator. Arrangements between partners should make sure that there is a suitable return to the university and researcher, that IA ownership returns to the university if it is not exploited by the business partner in an agreed period, and that there should be no significant restrictions on researchers’ future research activities.

Beyond the basic advice on this page we are not able to offer detailed advice and we will not get involved in any detailed negotiations, nor accept any financial or other consequences arising from IA issues relating to EPSRC-funded research.

Options for IA Agreements

For collaborative grants involving two or more universities or user organisations EPSRC requires a formal collaboration agreement between the parties involved that sets out the basis of collaboration between the organisations, including ownership of intellectual assets and rights to exploitation. Such an agreement needs to be in place before the research begins. EPSRC suggests the Lambert Toolkit for collaborative research as a starting point for such agreements.

Arrangements between collaborative partners should make sure that there is

  1. Proportionality in negotiation – The amount an organisation seeks to take out of a project should be proportional to what they have put into it. Intellectual Property (IP) ownership is not essential; it is the right to use that is crucial and hence the goals of a project could be met simply by being able to use a piece of IP.
  2. Avoiding Overemphasis on IP – a broad view of commercialisation and its potential benefits should be taken in order to avoid too narrow a focus patentable IP.
  3. Creating long-term partnership – building relationships between universities and industry underpins successful IP exploitation.
  4. Need for good practice (including clear communication) – to be followed by all sides in all negotiations.
  5. Maintaining academic freedom – much of the IP generated by universities supports their own research and teaching and therefore universities must ensure that they protect their own freedom to operate. This should extend to allowing for multiple pathways to impact, to be determined by the university, for any piece of background IP that is required for a collaborative project.

Who owns IP arising from an EPSRC-funded Studentship?

It depends on the arrangements in place at each university and you should check with the university's research administration office. Unless alternative arrangements are agreed between the university, the student and any collaborator, intellectual property rights will belong to the student who generates them.

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