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Using Northwestern Labs and Facilities

Once the company is incorporated, all research related to the startup needs to be conducted within the startup. There are strict regulations forbidding startup companies from conducting the company’s work within the walls of the academic institution. Using the university’s facilities can result in grave penalties for the institution and the researcher.

Sometimes, however, the academic lab pursues basic research that is complementary to the company’s product development work. In other instances, if proof-of-concept or reduction-to-practice experimentation still needs to be done, the academic laboratory may be best equipped to perform the work. In these cases, the startup can enter a sponsored research agreement with the founder of the startup. Funding from startups to the founder’s academic laboratory needs to be cleared by the Office of Sponsored Research and the School’s conflict-of-interest administrator. Often the founder is not allowed to receive the funds if he or she has a significant financial interest (i.e., stock or other ownership interest). An additional program for which a faculty member may apply is INVOHub.  INVOHub has identified potential space on campus that faculty and/or nascent startups may utilize for a fee.  Read more information on this program and learn how to apply.

Regardless, the faculty member will need to develop a plan for going forward with the research in such a manner that potential conflicts have been mitigated. Such plans generally pay special attention to graduate student and human subject involvement in the research and to public disclosure in publications resulting from the sponsored research, and to corporate ties. Ultimately, a research contract will be negotiated between the company and Northwestern through which the company will gain prospective licensing rights to the results of the research and any associated intellectual property. Contract negotiation is handled by the Office for Sponsored Research.