Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

A Memorandum of Understanding is a non-binding memorandum between MIT and one or more organizations planning to create a new cooperative research and/or education program. MOUs attempt to outline the type of relationship that will be created, the objectives for the relationship, and the actions that each party plans to take to bring the program into existence. The planned activity may or may not come to fruition as described in the MOU, but there is no penalty for failure.

There is no fixed form or content for MOUs; their content is determined by their objectives.

MIT does not negotiate MOUs unless they serve an objective of major importance to the Institute. Therefore, requests for MOUs must be approved by senior MIT leadership.

The process for drafting, reviewing, and negotiating an MOU can be brief or lengthy, depending upon the complexity of the program being planned and what the participants want to obtain from the MOU.

If you or a sponsor wish to request an MOU, submit a request to an MIT senior leader (Dean, Vice President for Research, or higher) which includes the following:

  1. MIT’s institutional objective(s) for the MOU
  2. The parties to the MOU
  3. A description of the plans for and intent of the collaboration
  4. The individuals to contact at each of the collaborating organizations

What is the process?

  1. The MIT senior leader should approve the request for the MOU and forward it to the Director of Sponsored Programs with the approved request for the MOU.
  2. The Director of Sponsored Programs will engage the appropriate OSP contract administrator for the department, laboratory, or center governed by the MOU; in turn, the contract administrator will engage a contract specialist from the OSP Non-Federal Agreements Team to draft the MOU. If the MOU does not plan research activities, the Office of General Counsel may draft and negotiate it instead of OSP.
  3. The contract specialist and the representatives of the collaborating organization(s) will discuss their organizations’ needs and expectations for the collaboration. From these discussions, the MOU will be drafted. The contract specialist will then negotiate with representatives of the collaborating organizations until a mutually acceptable MOU is produced.
  4. Finally, the MOU will be signed by each organization and by the appropriate signer for MIT.

How long will this process take?

The length of time to draft an MOU can vary widely, and is affected by the complexity of the project as well as by how much discussion is needed to reach consensus. Potential complicating factors may include:

  • Multiple participating organizations
  • Unclear expectations and ambitions for the collaboration
  • Requests and requirements of the participating organizations that conflict with MIT policies, practices, or organizational structure
  • How quickly and fully each participating organization’s representative responds to MIT’s communications

During the development of an MOU, the contract specialist may need to consult with multiple MIT offices. For this reason, the time required for negotiation of some MOUs may vary widely.

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

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