Lambert to draft model IP contracts

May 28, 2004

Model research contracts are to be drafted by a government committee in a bid to speed up deals between universities and industry, The Times Higher has learnt.

Richard Lambert, author of last year's report on business and higher education links, has been asked to chair a committee that will draw up standard paperwork for the commercial exploitation of academic ideas.

It is understood that the committee has more than 20 members, including representatives from Universities UK and the Confederation of British Industry, and that its first meeting took place on May 4.

The committee has been convened by the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry and the UK Patent Office. It is expected to report back by Easter 2005.

It has been asked to look at two of the Lambert report's recommendations - both of which urge the speeding up of negotiations between industry and universities over research collaboration and intellectual property.

UUK said: "The work of this group will clearly be vital in ensuring that Lambert's recommendations work, as this will enable buy-in from both higher education and business. All those involved will have the opportunity to contribute to the content of the templates for IP ownership and model contracts."

Tim Bradshaw, the CBI's representative on the committee, said that agreeing a set of guiding principles for collaboration would be a "good starting point".

Mr Bradshaw added: "I'm very optimistic about this, there is a willingness around the table to work together."

The Lambert report said that "lack of clarity" over IP rights - such as ownership of patents or designs - increased the time and cost involved in negotiations and "prevented some deals being completed".

"Several businesses and universities have failed to reach agreement and walked away from collaborations because they found it too difficult to reach agreement on IP ownership," the report said.

Mr Lambert, former editor of the Financial Times , proposed the drafting of model contracts that could be used on a voluntary basis by businesses and universities and the creation of a "protocol for the ownership of IP in research collaborations".

A Treasury spokesman said: "The group will report back to the government next year, and it is anticipated that it will produce a set of voluntary model contracts and IP framework."

The government's response to the Lambert report is expected this summer when Gordon Brown, the chancellor, announces the result of the comprehensive spending review, which will determine how much each Whitehall department has to spend between 2006 and 2008.

Mr Lambert's report urged closer industry-university collaboration and recommended a new stream of public funding for "business-relevant research" and a greater role for business in "influencing courses and curricula".

paul.hill@thes.co.uk

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