UC's research tiers: Catalysts for academic-corporate collaboration

Standardized agreements help companies connect quickly, seamlessly to top university talent

Industry-academic collaborations have long been seen as a win-win-win: companies access top talent for research and development; students gain marketable skills applying classroom learning to practical problems; and faculty gain more opportunities to solve problems that matter.

As a Carnegie Research 1 institution, the University of Cincinnati frequently attracts the attention of Fortune 500 and other prominent companies eager to leverage the university’s faculty and student expertise and state-of-the-art facilities for innovation.

Often these collaborations generate new intellectual property (IP). That’s where standardized tiers come into play, said Geoffrey Pinski, assistant vice president for technology transfer in the 1819 Innovation Hub.

How does it work?

As Pinski explained, “The priorities of industry and academia are often very different. To bring the priorities around intellectual property into alignment and streamline the often-arduous negotiations, we developed three industry research tiers. These tiers provide a simple structure and include a pathway for our industry partners to own the intellectual property, often a sticking point in negotiations.”

Tier 1: The non-exclusive royalty-free license (NERF)

For companies that don’t think there will be any IP generated during a project and want to start collaborating quickly, this express lane beckons.

  • Companies receive a royalty-free, non-exclusive license to the IP, with an option to negotiate exclusively once IP is created.
  • No fees or royalties are included.
  • Background IP is not included.

Tier 2: The exclusive license with pre-set royalty

For companies yearning for exclusivity and a quick launch, this tier unfurls quickly but ensures an IP position once the project ends.

  • The company pays a 10% fee based on the full cost of the sponsored research project (a minimum of $15,000).
  • The company then pays 1% royalties on net sales once IP revenue surpasses $20 million.
  • Both the company and the principal investigator at UC must agree to this tier.
  • Background IP is not included.

Tier 3: Ownership assigned to sponsor

For companies that want any potential IP created during the project assigned to them before the project even begins, this tier locks in those agreements in advance.

  • Ownership of any IP created by UC and the university’s interest in any joint project IP are both assigned to the company.
  • The company pays an additional fee of 75% of the full cost of the sponsored research project for the assignment of IP.
  • Both the company and the principal investigator at UC must agree to this tier.
  • No UC background IP may be associated with the project.

“Since launching these tiers, we have seen an uptick in collaborative agreements with top companies,” Pinski said. “By nurturing these partnerships, we are helping to bring more UC-developed innovations into the marketplace.”

Featured image at top: Looking up at modern skyscrapers. Photo/Sean Pollock courtesy of Unsplash

Help for entrepreneurs

UC's Technology Transfer team helps UC faculty and staff commercialize their discoveries and then license the intellectual property to third parties. A searchable database includes hundreds of technologies currently available for licensing — from advanced manufacturing to sensors. Learn more.

Related Stories


What is a pre-accelerator?

March 30, 2023

The University of Cincinnati’s Venture Lab is a mentor-based entrepreneurial support ecosystem designed to provide guidance, support and structure to help early-stage startups move from idea to prototype stage. The goal of a pre-accelerator is to provide intensive guidance, mentorship and resources for budding entrepreneurs so they can establish a strong foundation for growth and attract customers and investors.


6 UC business development services every aspiring entrepreneur needs

June 14, 2023

Want to launch a winning business right here in Cincinnati? Thanks to the services available through the University of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub, you don’t have to do it alone. As the front door to UC, the hub connects small business owners, entrepreneurs and innovators to services that will help turn your venture into the next big thing.


Five ways to make your social media posts more appealing

March 6, 2023

Social media is not a website; it is a place for short impactful engagement. Using social networks is a powerful way to advertise your company and highlight how you share the same values with your clients. They're quick, easy and free — plus they can reach thousands of people in seconds. But you must use them well!