The Process of Research Contracts

Useful Links

It is recommended that staff intending to conduct any commercial research or consultancy service become familiar with the Financial Management Practice Manual and direct any queries to their own School or Faculty Finance Managers or to Research Services.

Private work conducted by staff independently of the University is governed by the Statement on Staff External Activities, which is administered by the Registrar’s Office.

Information on the account opening process can be obtained from the Financial and Business Services(FaBS) division. The Research Services Project Administration Flowchart also provides an overview of this process.

Following are notes on some of the most important features of the commercial research or consultancy process:

Funding Coversheet

Staff must submit a signed Funding Coversheet before any formal arrangements between JCU and the client can be processed through Research Services.

Early Contact with the Client - IP and Price

Staff usually make the first contacts with the client or funding partner themselves, and only later involve Research Services in finalising the agreement between the parties. There are a few things in particular that you must keep in mind at this stage - note that the Office should be brought into the  picture  at the earliest opportunity:

  1. Any written communications with a client should contain a disclaimer (that it is not legally binding);        

  2. Any negotiations on potentially valuable intellectual property - ie. with commercial potential or with the potential to be used in further research - should be conducted with care and through Research Services.        

  3. Negotiations may need to be conducted under a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement.        

  4. Project pricing must be in accordance with JCU requirements (refer FMPM 621 Pricing Commercial and Non-Commercial Activities ). Any proposal that involves a) pricing at less than full cost recovery (including all staff costs), or b) a waiver of overheads, must get approval from the appropriate delegated authority prior to coming to any agreement on terms with the client - approval will not be given after the event. JCU is obliged to price fairly and competitively in the market - and that means covering all the associated costs with a project. See FMPM 620 Financial Management Practice Manual for a full list of delegated authorities and more details on this topic.        

More detail can be found in the Overheads and Pricing webpage, where overheads budgeting and waivers are covered in more detail, along with some notes on pricing for commercial projects and the daily charge-out rates.

Do not undervalue your research.

Student Involvement

If the primary purpose of the project is to fund a research student stipend, or if students are likely to be involved in the generation of any intellectual property (it may only be a report), particular care must be taken with negotiating terms and conditions, which may tie up rights to publish (or in the worst case to have a thesis examined).

Remember: students who are not employees of JCU are not bound by an agreement between JCU and a client, and a separate agreement between JCU and the student is required to ensure compliance (and recognition of rights and obligations).

It is preferable that you contact Research Services as early as possible in the process if there is likely to be student involvement.

Written Agreements

The client may present you with a contract - if so, you must refer it to Research Services at the earliest draft stage. It is not unusual for the other party to not recognise the interests of researchers in their intellectual property provisions or to require warranties or indemnities that JCU is unable  to  give.

Alternatively JCU's Research Legal Officer, Jim Campbell (x15238), will draft the contract. If so, you should contact him at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that the expectations of both researcher and client can be met or compromised, and without unrealistic expectations becoming entrenched.

Signing-off of contracts must be in accord with Council's Delegations (refer to section 4.7). Please note Director of Research Services can sign off on up to $2,000,000.  The signature of the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor is required for contracts with a value over $2,000,000. All contracts must be vetted by Research Services.

Once the agreement has been signed by JCU and the client, an original copy should be retained with Research Services (and the other with the client). A copy is then sent to the Grants Finance in Financial and Business Services (FaBS) for account opening. Invoicing is coordinated by Grants Finance.