Knowledge transfer is the third sector of higher education activity (the other two being teaching and research). One of the ways this takes place is through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs).
KTPs combine academic know-how with commercial imperatives to form three-way collaborations between a UK based business (or not for profit organisation), a higher education provider (or another academic or research organisation) and a suitably qualified graduate (with the ability to lead a strategic business project). KTPs are part funded by a grant from Innovate UK with the business contributing to the associate’s salary.
The business benefits from academic expertise whilst the academic partner benefits from relevant research papers. The KTP supports the associate by way of career development which often leads to permanent employment. Essentially, everyone wins. However, despite the venture being win-win-win, getting the contractual documentation agreed can still be fraught with difficulties. This is where Birketts can help. We have considerable experience in properly utilising the Lambert Toolkit documentation and providing bespoke drafting to satisfy competing objectives between the business and the academic partner. Our cross department KTP team can also ensure that the associate’s employment arrangements with the academic partner will be compatible with the important provisions of the KTP documentation.
Whilst it would be sensible for all KTPs to be based on the standard documents within the Lambert Toolkit, as this would reduce the time spent negotiating a formal agreement, there can still be contentious issues. In our experience, the key issues are as follows:
- the academic partner’s right to publish – it goes without saying that the academic partner will want to publish papers and participate at conferences. However, the academic partner’s research profile will need to be balanced against the need to not damage the competitive position of the business. For example, early disclosure in a journal would likely prevent a successful patent application
- ownership of the results in the project – as you would expect, this is a key issue. Although the partner’s respective contributions need to be properly recognised, on the basis that the business will want to commercially exploit the results, it would be sensible to agree the ownership position at the outset
- the use of the academic partner’s background intellectual property rights – it is not unusual for an academic partner to be selected due to its specific expertise. Certain sectors will likely be a higher priority for KTP funding as Innovate UK is a key delivery partner in the governments modern industrial strategy to push artificial intelligence and data, aging society, clean growth and the future of mobility. Consequently, if reliance is to be placed on an academic party’s intellectual property rights, issues such as licence terms and royalties should be agreed at the outset.
It is important to choose the right academic partner and to enter into an informed discussion in regard to the key issues. Birketts has excellent links with local education providers and can put you in touch with the right contact to progress your KTP as efficiently as possible.
If you have a KTP enquiry, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your main contact or contact Paul Palik directly.
This article is from the December 2019 issue of Upload, our newsletter for professional with an interest in technology. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website.
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The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2019.