Sponsored Research Agreement (Single Non-Federal Sponsor)

A Sponsored Research Agreement (SRA) is a contract between MIT and a non-federal sponsor for the purposes of funding and conducting research at MIT.

Sponsored Research Agreements include terms governing the following:

  • Scope of work to be conducted
  • Budget for the research
  • Payment obligations and timing
  • Management and staffing of the research project
  • Schedules and deliverables
  • Publication of the research results
  • Options to license the intellectual property arising from the research
  • Care of data and confidential information exchanged during the research
  • Transfer of materials (when needed)
  • Compliance with export control and other laws and regulations
  • Use of MIT’s name
  • Rights and procedures to terminate the project
  • Taxes, insurance, warranties, liability, governing law, and other items necessary for contracts

The process for developing an SRA for a non-federal sponsor may be brief or lengthy, depending on the complexity of the program to be sponsored and what the sponsor expects to obtain for its support.

What does OSP need to negotiate an SRA?

OSP needs an approved proposal with budget and schedule, prepared by the principal investigator (PI) and routed through the department and school to the OSP contract administrator.

OSP can begin drafting an SRA for a non-federal sponsor when the contract administrator receives a draft statement of work and budget from the PI. However, the office cannot advance negotiation of the agreement beyond preliminary discussions with the sponsor until the approved proposal has been routed, because the approved statement of work, schedule, funding amount, and payment schedule must be incorporated into the SRA and are needed by OSP and the Sponsor to negotiate essential terms and conditions in the agreement affecting issues such as publication review, materials transfer and intellectual property rights.

What is the process?

  1. If possible, give OSP a head-start on this process by providing, as early as possible, a draft statement of work, schedule, and budget to the OSP contract administrator supporting your department, laboratory, or center. Alternatively, route a completed proposal and budget for approval to the OSP contract administrator.
  2. The contract administrator will determine what kind of sponsored research agreement is required.
    • MIT prefers to use its standard Sponsored Research Agreement as the model for most research agreements with non-federal sponsors. Therefore, in most cases, the contract administrator will propose this agreement to the sponsor.
    • Sometimes a sponsor will propose its own research agreement as the starting point. In this case, provide the sponsor’s proposed agreement to the contract administrator, who will review the sponsor’s draft agreement.
  3. If necessary, the contract administrator will engage a contract specialist (negotiator) from OSP’s Non-Federal Agreements Team to negotiate a mutually acceptable Sponsored Research Agreement for the project.
  4. Next, the agreement is signed by the sponsor and by an OSP sponsor liaison for MIT.
  5. Finally, the OSP contract administrator will notify the PI and his or her department, laboratory, or center, asking the PI and departmental administrative officer to approve the award and acknowledge its terms and conditions. Then, the contract administrator will set up the award.

How long will this process take?

The length of time from approval of a proposal to notice of award from a non-federal sponsor can vary widely. 

If a non-federal sponsor accepts MIT’s standard Sponsored Research Agreement without modification, obtaining the signed agreement may take a few weeks. The process includes these steps:

  1. Review of the PI’s background intellectual property (BIP) by MIT’s Technology Licensing Office, to determine whether any BIP may be needed by the sponsor to practice inventions developed during the proposed research. Pertinent BIP needs to be identified in the final research agreement; if desired, the sponsor must have the opportunity to obtain licenses to BIP.
  2. Transmittal of MIT’s approved research proposal and standard SRA to the sponsor.
  3. Review and acceptance of the SRA by the sponsor’s legal counsel.
  4. Signing of the agreement by the sponsor’s corporate officer.
  5. Transmittal of the signed agreement back to MIT, and signature by OSP.

If a sponsor proposes that MIT use the sponsor’s contract or wants to negotiate changes to MIT’s standard SRA, the process takes longer. The steps are the same as above, but step 3 includes negotiation between the sponsor’s legal counsel and management and a contract specialist on the OSP Non-Federal Agreements Team.

The length of the negotiation step is affected by the complexity of the project and by how many areas of disagreement must be resolved through negotiation. Potential complicating factors may include:

  1. Multiple sponsors (co-funding) for a project
  2. Complex intellectual property terms
  3. Requests and requirements by the sponsor that conflict with MIT policies, practices, or organizational structure
  4. How quickly and fully the sponsor’s legal counsel responds to OSP’s communications

During the negotiation, the contract specialist may need to consult with other MIT offices, such as the Office of General Counsel and the Technology Licensing Office.

For these reasons, SRA contract negotiations may require several months to reach agreement if the sponsor demands terms that deviate significantly from MIT’s standard SRA terms.

Your OSP contract administrator and the contract specialist will update you on the progress of your SRA negotiation.

Where to get help: Contact the OSP contract administrator for your department, laboratory, or center.