University Research Relations with Private Enterprise and on Publication of Research Findings

The following policy on the above subject was passed by the Board of Governors on May 8, 1987.


Cooperation with private enterprise in research programs has a long and rich history in The University of North Carolina. These research relationships have contributed materially to economic development and to the improvement of the quality of life in North Carolina, and new scientific knowledge and productive applications of existing technology have resulted from collaborations between private firms and University institutions. The development of the Research Triangle Park and of University Research Park in Charlotte are recent and positive instances of the benefits of university-industry cooperation in research.

The Board of Governors encourages and supports these cooperative efforts with private enterprise because important public benefits often result, and also because such activities contribute significantly to the education of scientists, physicians, engineers, and other professionals. The purpose of this statement of policy is to establish standards and guidelines for the constituent universities in the future development of these relationships.


The Board of Governors hereby reaffirms its belief in the fundamental importance of academic freedom and responsibilities as stated in Chapter VI, Section 600, (“Freedom and Responsibility in the University Community”) of The Code of The University of North Carolina:

The University of North Carolina is dedicated to the transmission and advancement of knowledge and understanding. Academic freedom is essential to the achievement of these purposes. The University therefore supports and encourages freedom of inquiry for faculty members and students, to the end that they may responsibly pursue these goals through teaching, learning, research, discussion, and publication, free from internal or external restraints that would unreasonably restrict their academic endeavors.

This commitment carries with it an important public responsiblilty to encourage the open distribution of the benefits of the new knowledge and information resulting from the research efforts of faculty, students, and professional staff. All forms of scholarly and research activities, including those research activities that are supported by grants, contracts, or other arrangements between the institution and government agencies and private firms, are encompassed in this University tradition.

Other policies enacted by the Board of Governors and certain administrative actions of the President are pertinent to the governing of research relationships with private firms. Of particular importance are:

a. “The University of North Carolina Patent and Copyright Policies,” adopted by the Board of Governors in 1983, prescribes policies concerning the creation and ownership of intellectual property and the distribution of income from such property.

b. The “Policy Statement on External Professional Activities of Faculty and Other ProfessionalStaff,” adopted by the Board of Governors in 1979, and as thereafter amended, establishes policies regulating consulting and other external professional activities for pay.

c. Administrative Memorandum Number 68, “Grants, Contracts, and Cooperative Agreements to Finance Sponsored Programs,” issued by the President in 1976, and as thereafter amended, sets forth administrative procedures to ensure that all proposals for external sponsorship of activities receive appropriate review by senior officers.

In the event of any inconsistency between this document and any of a, b, or c above, this document controls.


a. General Issues

American universities, including The University of North Carolina, have been remarkably successful in developing a productive and powerfully effective system for conducting basic research in conjunction with graduate education. Private enterprise has been a significant partner in this endeavor. For many years private firms have given assistance to universities in conducting research that has materially advanced the frontiers of knowledge. As the scientific and economic advantages of research collaboration between private enterprise and universities have become more visible in recent years, the extent of this collaboration between the private sector and the academy has expanded.

There are, however, differing values and priorities between the academy and the private sector that must be respected. Academic research has historically been directed more toward the educational experience and the extension of fundamental knowledge than toward commercial applications or processes. Moreover, universities require free and open debate and discussion of ideas and newly-published research results.

In contrast, private firms necessarily must consider profitability and product development and marketing. Since competitive advantage is crucial to the success of commercial ventures, patents are important and results of research work often are proprietary and may not be published. The use of university research and advanced education for commercial purposes thus presents different challenges and opportunities to universities and to private firms.

b. Types of University-Private Industry Relationships

Private firms are in contact with universities and their faculty members in a wide variety of ways. The most common example is through the external professional activities for pay of faculty. Under such arrangements, covered by the Board’s “Policy Statement on External Professional Activities of Faculty and Other Professional Staff,” faculty members serve as paid part-time consultants.

There is also significant direct funding of research costs by private firms through contracts and grants, and these activities are governed by Administrative Memorandum Number 68 cited above.

Certain universities also have formal programs that involve private firms more directly in the life of the institution, such as research centers or consortia and industrial associate programs. Under such arrangements private firms and perhaps some state or federal agencies may pay an annual fee to a university in return for which they receive publications and attend on-campus briefings. Similarly, a university or group of universities may arrange a consortium with several private companies to conduct research in an area of mutual interest.

Research partnerships are less common, and they involve joint planning and joint coordination of the research program. These arrangements bring the private firms into a much closer association with universities, and usually specify the distribution of patents and may contain a prior-notification stipulation on the publication of research results.


a. Appropriateness of University Research

All activities of The University of North Carolina, including any research collaborations with private firms, must support its teaching, research, and public service missions. The University environment must allow faculty and students to pursue freely learning and research. The University must also maintain its independence and integrity to assure impartiality, and it may not agree to any inappropriate limits on the freedom to publish research findings. Most importantly, The University must retain the public’s trust by engaging in research activities that are consistent in nature, quality, scope, and importance with its educational purpose, and that are conducted under conditions that ensure its academic integrity. The chancellors are the responsible officers for the administration of this policy and they are to take such steps as are necessary to maintain it.

b. Proprietary Information

Faculty and students of The University must have the right to disseminate freely and openly their research findings, and research sponsors may not abridge this basic right; however, in certain exceptional cases, the sponsor may be in possession of proprietary and confidential information that the institution and the research sponsor must share to conduct the research project. A constituent institution, with the approval of its chancellor, may enter into agreements to guard the confidentiality of such proprietary information. Information in the public domain, or information that a constituent institution legally obtains from a third party, or information independently developed or possessed by a constituent institution is expressly excluded from the definition of proprietary information. Any agreement that involves the joint use of university facilities for proprietary purposes, or that purports to restrict faculty or students from publishing freely the results of their own work, shall be reported in writing to the President prior to its execution. No agreement, however, may interfere with the publication or oral defense of research theses and dissertations of graduate students.

c. Classified or Other Secret Research Projects

Research conducted by faculty or students under any form of sponsorship must maintain The University’s open teaching and research philosophy and must adhere to a policy that prohibits secrecy in research. However, in cases involving United States government classification, or in any other case clearly involving exceptional circumstances, the chancellor is authorized to waive this requirement if it is in the national or institutional interest to do so. All such agreements must be reported in writing to the President prior to their execution.


This policy shall become effective upon approval by the Board of Governors.

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