Developing new ideas and bringing them to market can be a complicated business and there is much to consider, especially in the early stages. How the new product, process or service will be financed, which business model best suits its commercialisation and who to bring on board to accelerate development to market are big questions which businesses must decide on.

When thinking about collaborative partners who could inject valuable knowledge, Scotland’s universities, research institutes and colleges offer world-class resources from all disciplines.

The issue of time to market is vitally important, and with this in mind, Scotland’s universities, have developed a suite of 15 standard legal agreements, introduced to help make business-academic partnerships simpler and easier from the start.

The downloadable, free, standard legal agreements provide a clear starting point to quickly help reach mutual understanding between the business and their academic partner over things like confidentiality and intellectual property. A variety of forms of collaboration are covered by the standard legal agreements from research to studentship agreements and take into account a range of scenarios determined by the company’s contributions.

The Scottish University partners supported by Interface want to make it as easy as possible for businesses and universities to work together and give peace of mind in establishing the collaboration. The standard legal agreements save time and money, reduce the chance of any misunderstandings arising and aim to get business-academic partnerships agreed quickly.

The standard legal agreements will also prompt discussions at the initial stages of the project scoping. A question often asked by businesses is: “How can I protect the Intellectual Property (IP) and what happens if I work with an academic who brings new ideas and knowledge to develop the original idea?”. The variety of templates available provide clarity with respect to IP ownership thereby reducing the perceived barriers of academic – business engagement.

One business that has benefited from using the legal agreements is Middle Way Ltd, who collaborated with Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Glasgow on separate projects to investigate the ingredient properties and explore international markets for their for their naturally brewed soft drinks.
The collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher.

Catriona Monson, who co-founded the company, said: “Our initial project with Glasgow Caledonian University was an exciting project that has safeguarded our production process, given us a comprehensive understanding of storage requirements for our culture, and has led on to further research projects. Having the standard documentation has made the legal and administrative side of collaborating really quick and easy for us and meant that we could focus our time on the important part of getting started with the research.”

Dr. Mike Smith, Executive and Policy Manager, SRUC who convened the Scottish Universities group responsible for developing the standard legal agreements said: “Getting all the 19 Scottish Universities to agree on commonly used legal templates will help smooth the pathway to collaborations with a diversity of organisations in both the public and private sectors.

It helps to underscore how much the universities value the importance of collaborating with businesses and other organisations to help promote innovation and enterprise and is a practical demonstration of Scottish Universities being very much open for business.”

By Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director, Interface