These guidelines describe procedures for the establishment and administration of Sponsored Project Consortia (SPCs), commonly known as Industrial Affiliates Programs.
Sponsored Project Consortia is a gateway for launching and conducting frequent, open communication between participating researchers and the corporate community. Companies gain direct access to the capabilities of university faculty members and their students in exchange for annual membership fees which primarily fund basic research. Corporate members are not granted intellectual property ownership rights and there are no required deliverables. Corporate members typically attend annual meetings, receive copies of reports and publications, and have opportunities to recruit students.
How are SPCs different from Sponsored Research?
Sponsored Project Consortia typically focus on an area of research that looks at a general problem that a group of industries maybe facing. The affiliate members do not receive intellectual property (IP) ownership rights in return for their membership fees, but are granted a license to use any IP developed by the consortium.
A sponsored project, on the other hand, is a one-on-one arrangement where a company funds a research project with a specific statement of work and budget for a defined period of time. The project benefits only the one sponsor. In sponsored research, the sponsoring company pays the full direct and indirect costs of the research. In return, the company may receive an option to license inventions resulting from the project.
Setting up an SPC
The following steps and information must be submitted to Office of the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer (VPR) in order to initiate or setup a sponsored project consortium.
- Letter to the VPR requesting the establishment of the consortium that provides the following information:
- The proposed name of the consortium
- Project period
- The type of industry partners.
- List the prospective members (no fewer than 4)
- A statement describing the benefit to the University’s mission.
- A proposal that provides the following information:
- Scope of work of the consortium (no more than 5 pages)
- Projected five --year budget showing expected income and expenses, including 20 percent indirect costs (1 page)
- Budget justification (2 pages)
- Location and facilities resource page (1 page)
- Administrative structure: personnel, titles (1 page)
- Sample invitation/recruiting letter to participants (to be signed by the Principal Investigator)
- Sample standard consortium agreement (to be developed through a Research Contract Officer, after an approval for a Consortium has been granted by the VPR)
The standard consortium agreement
The consortium agreement must spell out the approach, shared rights and obligations on which the entities intend to collaborate. You may contact an Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG) contract officer for a sample contract that forms the basis for a typical consortium membership agreement. The agreement is negotiated by Research Contracts Officers associated with the Division of Research’s (DOR) Office of Contracts and Grants. With the exception of minor changes, all of the agreements of a single consortium must be the same for every member. The amendments to the agreement for annual renewals are standards letters of invitation to continue annual membership, which both parties must sign.
SPC members pay a predefined membership fee, usually annually. The payment amount varies from consortium to consortium and depends on the value of the services provided to members. Within a single consortium level, all members are required to pay the same fee amount. Members may sign up for different levels of membership, but the option to do so must be available to all members.
Renewals are sent out each year by the - OCG with a pro forma invoice to pay. The invoices sent with the agreements do not establish accounts receivable or spending authority for the Principal Investigator (PI) until the payment is received, and the agreement does not create a liability or obligation on the part of the members or the University until it is signed and fully executed.
One month before the anniversary date of the consortium begin date, the PI sends to OCG, a list of all members that should receive a renewal agreement and the names and contact information for any new members. OCG will prepare and send membership renewals in the form of an addendum to the original agreement, along with an invoice to pay the upcoming year’s annual payment. The newly recruited members will be sent a packet containing the following items:
- Cover welcoming letter signed by the PI
- Standard consortium agreement
- Scope of work of the consortium
- Invoice for the first year (with the option to pay for several years up-front)
OCG will conduct follow-up with the members for signed agreements and payment unless notified by the PI or member that the current year membership will not be renewed. The PI will receive a modification notice each time a payment is received and posted to the consortium cost center.
All SPCs are subject to Facility and Administrative cost charge, which is currently 20 percent Total Direct Cost (TDC).
Allowable and Unallowable Costs
Expenditures on consortium funds are subject to the University’s MAPP policy as it relates to local funds. Appropriate documentation is required to ensure the expenditures can be identified with the purpose and activity stated in the scope of work.
Roles and Responsibilities
Reviews written requests from faculty to establish SPCs and forwards them for approval to the Office of the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer.
The Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer
Reviews and approves all written requests to establish SPCs at the University of Houston. A consortium with fewer than four or so members may not be approved. The request must be accompanied by a proposal or scope of work, a projected five-year budget and a management plan.
Office of Contract and Grants
- Contract Officer (Sandy Brown) prepares standard Sponsored Project Consortium Membership Agreements and works with PIs to negotiate the standard SPC Membership Agreements with members.
- Support staff (RA) forwards approved SPC Membership Agreements to members along with attachments (scope of work, introduction letter from PI for new agreements, and invoices)
- Support staff (RA) receives the fully executed agreement for our files and checks for corresponding payment.
- Support staff (RA) sends follow-up emails to members that have not returned signed an agreement or payments.
- Research Administrator (RA) modifies the consortium award budget to add payments and sends a Notice of Award to the PI informing them of the addition to spending authority and by whom.
Office of Contract and Grants: Research Financial Services
- Prepares invoices and gives a copy to support staff to be sent out with agreement. The invoices are not booked as an Accounts Receivable until the actual payment is received.
- Follows up on payments and works with the treasury office to identify and allocate payments as they are received so that they can be posted to the correct SPC’s cost center.
- Assists the PI with reminders, collections, and follow-up for payment.
- Identifies scope of research and develops general methodology.
- Sets membership fees.
- Acts as SPC Director. Maintains a website of member affiliates.
- Hosts annual workshop/meeting to present research results, working sessions, opportunities to discuss employment of university students and graduate students for both permanent and co-op/internship programs.
- Handles the day-to-day program administration.
- Sends out reminders, and follow-up for payment, including withholding access to non-paying members.
- Updates their Conflict of Interest certification in ICON upon initiating the consortium.
List of Active UH Consortia
- Conjugate Basins, Tectonics and Hydrocarbons Consortium Phase V
- Center for Advanced Materials
- Center for Carbon Management in Energy (CCME)
- Center for Electromagnetic Compatibility Industry/University Cooperative Research Center
- Center for Innovative Grouting Materials and Technology
- Center for Petroleum Geochemistry Research Consortium
- Consortium for Energy Corporate Social Responsibility (CECSR)
- Consortium for Rock Properties Measurement, Microscopy, and Modeling (RPM3)
- Electric Power Analytics Consortium
- Fluid & Rock Properties and Seismic Hydrocarbon Indicators
- I/UCRC for Building Reliable Advances and Innovation in Neurotechnology (BRAIN)
- International Polymer and Soft Matter Consortium (IPSMC)
- Mission-Oriented Seismic Research Program
- Numerical Pore-scale Modeling Consortium
- Power Electromics-Microgrids & Subsea Electrical Systems Consortium (PEMSEC)
- Systems Research Education Consortium (SREC)
- Testing of Low Permeability Formations Research Consortium
- Well Logging Laboratory (WLL) Research Consortium