Sponsored Research

UW–Madison is home to one of the largest research enterprises in the nation. Partnerships with our faculty span across the institution—sciences, engineering, medicine, business, education, social sciences, arts, and humanities—and include access to our academic and scientific infrastructure with a goal of transforming discoveries into resources and products that address real-world issues.

The following tabs feature a series of complementary resources to assist you in discussions of industry-sponsored research opportunities. These guides, templates and FAQs provide more comprehensive details to advance your understanding of the process.

UW–Madison is continuously looking for ways to enhance industry partnerships and make the process easier for companies. We look forward to reviewing these items with you.

Because there are many ways in which a company may work with UW–Madison, there are several standard agreement templates. It is our experience that starting with the UW template will significantly reduce the time it takes to execute an agreement. If you are looking for a different template, please contact us by phone (608-263-2840) or email. Click below to download existing templates:

The Office of Business Engagement (OBE) is pleased to help you navigate the path for conducting sponsored research at UW–Madison. Explore this series of Frequently Asked Questions.

We’d love to hear more about your interest in sponsored research partnerships with UW-Madison. Please fill out this form for our Business Engagement Managers, who will reply with additional information and any needed next steps.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Office of Business Engagement is pleased to help you navigate the path for conducting sponsored research at UW–Madison. These FAQs are meant to help you get started. If you don’t find what you are looking for here, or if you are considering fee-for-service work, please reach out to our team directly.

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I am looking to initiate my relationship with UW–Madison. Where do I start?

The Office of Business Engagement (formerly the Office of Corporate Relations) is the front door for companies to identify and leverage UW resources to advance their businesses. OBE’s business engagement managers will help facilitate seamless access across the university community. OBE will work closely with you to understand relevant interests and needs, bring together contacts and experts from across campus, and develop strategies for a successful business relationship.

I’d like to begin discussions with UW–Madison and believe a confidentiality agreement (CDA) is needed. How do I get started?

UW–Madison has templates that have been successfully used with many industry partners. If your discussions with UW–Madison could include sharing proprietary information that you would like to protect, you can begin by accessing the UW–Madison template Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA). It can be routed through your Office of Business Engagement contact who will work with the appropriate departmental contacts, including a UW contracts specialist, for review.

I am interested in working with a UW–Madison investigator on a research project. Who can I contact to initiate this process, and what kind of options do I have to pursue this work?

If you already have identified the Principal Investigator (PI) you are interested in working with, you may reach out to them directly to initiate a dialog.  If you are trying to identify a PI, the Office of Business Engagement can help you find researchers who might be interested in a collaboration. We can also help arrange initial calls or meetings. Depending on your needs, the collaboration can take many forms and may involve additional resources.

UW–Madison has several standard agreement templates to facilitate industry engagement.

What steps can my organization take to prepare for a sponsored research project with UW–Madison?

The Office of Business Engagement is poised to help you explore opportunities for successfully conducting collaborative research with UW. Here are some questions you might want to consider as you begin:

  • What are your goals and desired outcomes?
  • What capabilities/expertise/resources are you looking for a partner to bring?
  • What resources do you plan to contribute to the work?
  • Are there organizational key milestones or deadlines associated with the project?
  • What approaches have you already tried? What was the result?
  • How will this project help your company achieve a competitive advantage in the market?

Who should I talk to about licensing UW–Madison technology?

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is the designated patent and licensing organization for UW–Madison. Licensing representatives at WARF guide you step-by-step through the different arrangements, providing access to more than 1,800 WARF-patented technologies. Non-patentable technology such as software developed by UW researchers may also be available for licensing from WARF, or sometimes directly from UW–Madison.

Does UW–Madison have a set of standard industry research agreements?

Yes. Because there are many ways in which a company may work with UW–Madison, there are several standard agreement templates.

These include:

Within each of these, UW–Madison has considerable flexibility to negotiate terms to fit specific research and company needs.

Initiating the process with a UW–Madison agreement template is preferred. However, it is possible to begin with another format, though doing so is likely add to the approval timeline.

UW–Madison is also willing to enter into campus-wide Master Research Agreements to facilitate multiple projects across schools and colleges. These agreements require advance work, negotiating agreement terms that are general enough to encompass all types of research conducted by any campus department and rely on individual Statements of Work (SOWs) to provide the details that are unique to a given project and set of circumstances. Since each of these situations is unique, it is critical to work closely with the Office of Business Engagement.

What is the difference between a Sponsored Research Agreement and a Fee-for-Service Agreement?

A Sponsored Research Agreement involves a project with a significant intellectual effort by a UW-Madison investigator in the design and conduct of a project that is intended to explore a research or development goal or create commercial outcomes for the Sponsor. These projects often involve the development of a project scope, plan, milestones, deliverables, and a budget. There are nuances within Sponsored Research projects, depending on the roles of the UW Researcher and the Sponsor organization. This distinction impacts downstream rights, such as publication and access to IP, which needs to be considered early in the process.

A Fee-For-Service Agreement project, in contrast, is one in which the University provides services in a vendor-type relationship. These projects typically involve routine or repetitive activities such as sample processing or projects in which UW staff serve as a “pair of hands” to implement detailed instructions of a sponsor. The typical deliverable of a Fee for Service project is data (sometimes including initial analysis) or a proprietary formulation that is delivered to the sponsor, and the University does not claim IP rights in the deliverable. Fee-for-service projects do not add to the body of fundamental knowledge. They do not support graduate student research. And they are not intended to create data suitable for publication in academic journals.

Is it possible to protect the research I am funding at UW–Madison? What confidentiality protections are possible?

Because UW–Madison is a public institution, the existence of a relationship with an industry partner cannot be kept confidential. However, research agreements frequently contain confidentiality and non-disclosure language that protects trade secrets and other proprietary information provided to UW–Madison by an industry sponsor, obligating UW to keep the sponsor’s sensitive business information confidential.  So, in as much as the details of the project contain sponsor’s confidential information, that information can be protected from public release.

After the research is complete, sponsors are given the opportunity to review draft publications so that they can identify any of their confidential information and request it be removed from the publication.

As an industry partner, what can I do to help make the contracting process go as smoothly as possible?

  • Start early – As soon as you have identified a project that is likely to advance, begin discussions on the required agreement(s) and terms.
  • Review our “Getting Started” information– This provides requirements UW must include in any agreement to comply with state and federal guidelines.
  • Start with UW templates – From experience, starting with the UW template will significantly reduce the time it takes to execute an agreement.
  • Coordinate with the PI on the scope of work While contracting is handled separately from the research it all must come together to execute an agreement, so staying in touch with the PI is key to success.
  • Establish primary points of contact – There will be many pieces moving in parallel, so it’s helpful to have identified leads for the scope of work and milestones, legal/agreement terms, other partnership activities such as training or access to talent. The Office of Business Engagement can help coordinated your UW resources to ensure a smooth process.

Can I hire UW–Madison investigators, researchers or experts in a consulting capacity?

Many UW faculty and researchers also make themselves available as consultants. This is typically outside of their role as a UW employee and therefore limits their access to other UW resources including students, labs, etc.

In this case, you would work directly with the PI to establish the relationship and associated agreements, and it is outside the scope of the Office of Business Engagement.

How does UW–Madison’s status as a public university impact research agreements?

UW is an agency of the state of Wisconsin and receives much of its funding through the federal government. UW is subject to state and federal rules, so these considerations are reflected in agreements. These considerations are summarized in the “Getting Started” section on this page.

If faculty or staff work with an industry sponsor to commercialize their research, what happens to their intellectual property rights?

At UW–Madison, researchers have a ninety-year history of disclosing potential new inventions and working with Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) to manage the intellectual property rights that come from campus research. Disclosure and ownership of intellectual property in a university environment can be complex. All universities must comply with federal rules and requirements related to funded research, and often, other funding sources bring their own requirements as to how intellectual property should be disclosed and managed. Because of WARF’s long history with the campus and close working relationships with inventors, UW–Madison is uniquely situated to ensure corporate sponsors’ access to the rights they need to make their products successful.

Can an industry partner take ownership of Intellectual Property (IP) developed at UW–Madison?

It is UW–Madison policy not to provide assignment of potentially patentable IP as part of any industry-sponsored research agreement. UW–Madison and WARF work diligently to satisfy an industry partners’ needs to access UW–Madison IP by vigorous pursuit of mutually acceptable agreement terms, including exclusive license option rights for an appropriate time period. In instances in which the deliverable of a research project is a written report or a tangible item, it may be possible for the industry partner to own the deliverable.

What does UW–Madison require in Research Agreements related to publications and rights to data?

UW–Madison requires the publication rights of research results by faculty, staff, and students, without extensive delay from a collaborator. Industry sponsors can negotiate for a right to review and request removal of sponsor’s confidential information from any material such as a publication that will be shared publicly. Additionally, UW policy requires that the UW retain ownership of research data in order to preserve the ability to conduct future research and publish the research results. However, it is quite common for sponsors to receive early access to data arising from the research they fund, and, subject to any IP rights that may apply to the data, be able to use the data for their own business purposes.

Who owns the rights to the results of research as a part of Research Agreements

UW–Madison does not assign ownership of the results of the research (data, inventions, etc.) to an industry sponsor. This is a result of the policies from the Board of Regents. However, the University does share the results of the sponsored projects with research sponsors. It does this by providing access to research data and experimental results with our sponsors and providing sponsors with an option to obtain licenses to inventions and ideas that come out of the research.

What kind of timelines can I expect for the negotiation of agreements with UW–Madison?

The timelines can vary by the type, complexity, and length of agreements, but the goal is to keep the process moving in a timely manner that works for both parties. It is strongly recommended to start the process with UW–Madison templates which are fair, reasonable and concise, and can speed up the timeline immensely. Also, be sure to leverage your key points of contact to keep you updated.

What are the costs involved in doing research with UW–Madison?

The costs of research vary from project to project. Each project may require unique resources: students, collaborators inside and outside the university, supplies, special equipment, etc. The costs often include salary, fringe, supplies, and indirect costs. There may be other costs included depending on the needs, such as tuition remission, travel, equipment purchase, and subcontractors.

Indirect costs are the costs that are not directly related to a specific sponsored project and are incurred for common or joint objectives. Sometimes you will hear indirect costs referred to as Facilities and Administrative Costs or F&A costs for short. Examples of facilities and administrative costs include utilities; building maintenance and operations; security; insurance; general-purpose supplies and equipment; and central administrative staff expenses. The University has a negotiated rate agreement with the federal government. If the University did not charge this federally negotiated rate, the University would be in violation of Federal Regulations.

Additional Resources