Partnering with Academia – Insights from Princeton’s Engage 2021 ConferenceDecember 1, 2021

As counsel to various university clients as well as those in industry (of many types!) I am frequently asked my opinion of how best to work with academia to conduct research, while also maximizing the future ability to commercialize resulting intellectual property (IP). This is a question with many nuanced answers. I am not seeking to answer this question specifically today. Instead, I want to share insight from an event I attended today. The Princeton Engage 2021 Conference is taking place December 1-2, 2021 (find information here or register to attend remaining sessions). In a session titled “Imagination for Collaboration: Partnering with Academia” there was valuable insight provided by a panel of speakers from both Princeton and industry representatives.

The session started with highlighting various examples of how industry has worked with academics at Princeton to cultivate future professionals (i.e. students) within the university through both curriculum and research collaborations. A highlighted example was IBM and its program “Quantum Undergraduate Research at IBM and Princeton” aka QURIP. Another example that was highlighted was Intel collaborating with electrical and computer engineering undergraduate students. These two partnering examples that were discussed (among others) give students an early opportunity to be exposed to industry during undergraduate studies. I would describe these efforts as a long-term pathway or commitment for industry to make to partner with academia.

Of course shorter-term research collaborations are commonly undertaken by industry or private companies with universities.  In sum, financial contributions are made to the university in exchange for collaborative research. The ways in which these agreements are set up are too numerous to summarize. Regardless of the structure or nature of the research collaboration, a very common question (and one addressed by the panel today) is how will IP ownership be handled. This particular group expressed that their arrangement for sponsored research is that the company who is funding them generally controls the ownership of resulting IP. Although Princeton expressed this as a general rule, this is not universally the case. Again this is where the nuance comes into play and where each academic institution may vary.

I enjoyed the open and forthright discussion today on this topic at the Princeton Engage 2021 Conference. If your schedule permits today or tomorrow, you may consider attending some of the events (which are free).

The discussions around whether to work with an academic institution for conducting research can be involved and sometimes complex, therefore, please seek specific legal advice. Numerous MVS attorneys are engaged with and active in AUTM, a non-profit organization that supports the development of academic research to drive innovation (

Jill N. Link is Chairwoman of the Licensing Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit

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