Research Administrators’ Seminar Day 2—Industry collaboration
15 November 2016
Liz Visher, Director Program Partnerships team

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The ARC and beyond—a quick policy overview

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What do we need to do to elevate our standing and deliver commercialisation excellence on par with research excellence?

I believe there are six essential ingredients:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Critical mass of scientists with entrepreneurial spirit
  3. Talent and skills in the business development offices of our universities and research organisations
  4. Market access
  5. Infrastructure
  6. Risk capital ”

* Bill Ferris (chair of Innovation and Science Australia)


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Tips and Tricks for industry collaboration

A shared journey…

The marketing theory… A question of Push vs. Pull

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ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hubs

Support collaborative research activity between the Australian higher education sector and industry designed to focus on strategic outcomes not independently realisable

Applications for funding must be made through an Eligible Organisation (i.e. Australian universities and some publicly funded research agencies)

Three to five years

$500,000 - $1,000,000

Must include at least one Australian Partner Organisation

Combined Partner Organisation Cash Contribution must be at least 75 per cent of total funding requested from ARC (unless all Partner Organisations have 100 employees or less)

ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centres

Foster partnerships between university-based researchers and other research end-users to provide innovative Higher Degree by Research (HDR) and postdoctoral training for the end-user focused research industries vital to Australia's future

Applications for funding must be made through an Eligible Organisation (i.e. Australian universities and some publicly funded research agencies)

Four to five years

$650,000 - $1,000,000

Minimum of $650,000 applies to the first three years. Minimum of $150,000 may be requested in the fourth year. No minimum level of funding provided by the ARC in the fifth year

Must include at least one Australian Partner Organisation

Must demonstrate that the combined Partner Organisation Cash and In-kind Contributions are sufficient to support all the research projects described in the proposal and particularly that of the ICHDRs and ICPDs in the Training Centre

ARC Linkage Projects

Supports collaborative R&D projects between higher education researchers and other parts of the national innovation system, which are undertaken to acquire new knowledge, and which involve risk or innovation

Applications for funding must be made through an Eligible Organisation (i.e. Australian universities and some publicly funded research agencies)

Two to five years

$50,000 - $300,000

Must include at least one Partner Organisation

The combined Partner Organisation eligible Cash Contribution must be at least 25 per cent of the total funding requested from the ARC (unless all Partner Organisations are exempt types)

ARC Centres of Excellence

Facilitate significant collaboration which allows the complementary research resources of universities, publicly funded research organisations, other research bodies, governments and businesses to be concentrated to support outstanding research.

Applications for funding must be made through an Eligible Organisation (i.e. Australian universities and some publicly funded research agencies)

Up to seven years

$1,000,000 - $5,000,000

Must include at least one Partner Organisation

Partner Organisation contribution is not prescribed, but must demonstrate commitment to the proposed ARC Centre of Excellence through significant Cash Contributions and/or In-kind Contributions

and/or contributions of other material resources.


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Establishing a relationship and designing the project

The known unknown  A short case study

Getting Started—some triaging is initially involved: 

There is a problem to be solved but industry wants 100% ownership of Intellectual Property and full control of benefits—see Contract Research or Consultancy 
There is a problem to be solved with immediate and longer term benefits, and IP to be shared between the University, industry and researchers—see Linkage Projects as a research project grant
There is a more industry-wide problem and the benefits may have system-wide industry solutions—blue-sky research plus serious capacity building involved—see Industrial Transformation Research Program investments
There is a longer term problem, requiring a inter-disciplinary approach, the scale of national centre with international level of research excellence and translation to multiple end users—see ARC Centres of Excellence


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Triage result – Proceed to next step

Triage result–Not now thanks

Proceed—but be aware of your university deal breakers and principles of engagement—don’t overpromise, don’t over-compromise

Consider a future collaborative relationship, or identify/solve other business problems

Consider the different perspectives…

Researcher focus

End user focus

Research outputs and outcomes

Outcomes as they can be applied and potential commercial benefits

  • Both parties’ needs must be met for a research project to be successful
  • Be clear about what is expected to be gained from the partnership
  • Don’t assume everyone understands research concepts or business concept

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Developing a collaborative project idea

 description below
  • Money
    • Conflicts
    • Other projects
    • What is the problem
    • What success looks like
    • Other funds/ resources needed
    • A risky business
    • Ethics and compliance

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The project concept emerges

Clearly articulate the challenge/solution and describe potential project activity (what may be possible both in the project time frame and perhaps beyond).

Think about:

  • who will be doing the work
  • how each party will be involved
  • what contributions the parties will make in cash and in-kind and the likely expenditure involved
  • the intellectual property expectations (ownership and use)
  • what the specific outputs are and when they are expected to be delivered
  • about gender equity in your capacity building

Consider a form of term sheet or heads of agreement, which will save you time and much angst later.

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Here comes the ARC grant application process 

  • Be clear what each party will, will not, or cannot, compromise upon (IP grumbles can begin here if not dealt with early)
  • Prepare a ‘finalised’ budget allowing plenty of time for any internal approvals in the university and the end-user organisation.
  • Share the application form—industry partners are sometimes forgotten here and don’t appreciate not seeing the draft and/or final versions
  • The early bird catches a Linkage Projects partner support letter—industry partners do not appreciate 24–48 hours to sign off letters of support
  • Think about what continuous application processes mean for Linkage Projects in your preparations…

Also think about:

  • Agreement on the distribution of funds and a contingency plan of what can be changed if the grant is successful, including if the amount of funding awarded is reduced—the impact affects all parties.
  • As the ARC assessment process progresses stay in contact with parties involved—address the rejoinder process constructively

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The ARC grant is awarded!

Consider better practice preparation…

  • The University is the Applicant—DVCR signs the ARC Funding Agreement
  • Some university research offices provide a checklist of key documents, policies and responsibilities for researchers to sign off—a good practice to have
  • The road to a Collaborative Research Agreement
  • written agreement between all the partners must be signed before you spend any ARC $$. Your early work with a term sheet will now pay off
  • Note—don’t send written agreements to industry that are the size of an Encyclopaedia Britannica volume…
  • RO staff need to remind researchers about ethics approvals—you cannot commence research work without clearances. 

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 Managing the project

Some governance is needed—have a project steering committee, Management Committee or Advisory Committee—structure depends on the scale and risk of the investment

Be clear: 

  • About how all parties are explicitly involved in the project from start to finish
  • That a translation plan is needed (know what to do when success starts to occur)
  • That everyone has some sense of ownership
  • That the project remains focused on end-user needs. Look for quick wins too!
  • That issues are to be dealt with quickly by the university, rather than allowed to linger unresolved
  • That when research students are involved in a project, the expectations of the student, the requirements of their research degree and their aspirations for the future should be explicitly discussed, and try to give them the broadest opportunities for professional development including industry placements
  • About gender equity and family friendly workplaces when recruiting
  • About how to deal with project scope creep or losing focus when you leverage success
  • Researchers need to inform the RO about changes in the staffing or scope of the project

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Industry related post-award stats

Since January 2013, there has been 1,528 VFA requests submitted to the ARC for the LP and ITRP schemes.

From these schemes, 793 (52%) directly relate to industry partners. From this, the top VFA requests are:

Variation request










Project—Deferral of Commencement


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ARC post-award perspective

  • How does your University plan and implement risk mitigation strategies associated with an ARC Project?
  • How do you actively manage leveraged success with new partners coming on board? What about monitoring for financial defaults?
  • Are the third party agreements clearly understood by all parties?
  • Share learnings amongst research offices on effective project-based risk mitigation strategies associated with industry collaboration

What happens if issues arise…

  • The ARC will always work with you to find solutions for the project to succeed where possible
  • ARC Postaward team often seeks to understand the context of the issues (for example issues on IP, people, partnerships, contributions), so we can work together to identify what options are available within the provisions of the Funding Agreement
  • A matter of timing—don’t leave it until its too late to tell the ARC! 

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Post-award: The three C’s

Conflict of Interest (COI) management:

  • The ARC Funding Agreements say that responsibility for COI management lies with the University. Issue—e.g. Chief Investigators’ relationship with Partner Organisations

Conflict resolution:

  • Engage—actively manage the partners’ expectations. Issue—e.g. contract research (100% owned IP) vs longer term research (IP is shared between the parties)
  • Ensure that partners understand their responsibilities. Issues—Can partners meet their cash and in-kind contributions? Reporting requirements—obligations and partner organisation input

Costly mediation attempts:

  • Always take the partners concerns seriously. Issues—IP ownership, student publishing, research directions changing
  • Avoid serious mediation “locally” in the schools/faculties without informing the Research Office. The University senior executive must be informed when things go wrong.
  • Partner Organisations do contact the ARC if they have concerns which are not being addressed by the university. The ARC does not mediate but asks the university senior executive to address the issues raised

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The larger investments

  • NCGP Major Investments—a larger scale of  managing industry collaboration
    • Industrial Transformation Research Program
    • ARC Centres of Excellence
    • Special Research Initiatives
  • Moving from project management (LP) to program management (ITRP/SRI) to entity management (CE/SRI)
  • Managing change with many partners

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The larger investments

  • Leveraging success—everyone wants to be your ‘best friend’
  • Maintaining research focus
  • Intellectual Property with more participants
    • Negotiation and management
    • Background IP
    • IP generated by the research program
    • Training (professional development for early career staff and student publishing)

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The larger investments

  • Industry collaboration and a “leading team”
    • Mentoring for Directors and succession planning
    • Mentoring and development for chief investigators and early career staff
    • Employing experts in industry collaboration
  • ARC helping to develop leadership and management
    • Annual Centre Directors’ Forum
    • New ITRP Directors meeting
    • New Centres of Excellence Directors meeting
    • We share our learnings from these meetings with you 

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A special thanks to the RO industry collaboration working group

  • Louise Fleck, Macquarie University (Chair)
  • Jodi Clyde-Smith, University of Queensland
  • Rebecca Bond, The University of Melbourne
  • Lyn McBriarty, Newcastle University
  • Ross McLennan, University of South Australia
  • Michelle Searle, University of Southern Queensland