University rolls out policies for small business collaboration funding


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the University encourages its faculty and students to become involved in scientific research and entrepreneurial initiatives, Penn State has adopted two policies to enable better understanding and compliance with federal regulations and guidance governing small business collaborations.

The policies reinforce guidelines for the University and its employees who participate in programs funded by the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or the Small Business Technology Transfer Collaboration (STTR) programs. Both programs aim to promote research by U.S. companies engaged in innovation and commercialization of technology. (Partnerships with universities as part of these programs are common.)

Policies RA06 and RA07 provide clear guidance for all faculty and staff researchers who intend to participate in an SBIR or STTR-funded program.

Only small businesses are eligible for SBIR or STTR awards. While the University cannot apply for these grants on it is own, it can and often does collaborate as part of a formal research agreement with a small business, and Penn State faculty and researchers are encouraged to participate, where appropriate, to further their University research goals.

In addition to referencing existing research-related policies and obligations, the University policies make clear that Penn State researchers must adhere to specific SBIR or STTR-related rules. For example, the principal investigator for a small business and the principal investigator for the University sub-award cannot be the same person or immediate family members.

The new policies follow a comprehensive review of the University’s current policies and procedures by the Conflicts of Interest Task Force. The task force, formed by Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones and Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey in August 2015, focused on clarifying policies, simplifying rules that may be redundant, and benchmarking how other research universities address these issues.

“In our efforts to support research at Penn State, we not only provide assistance and training, but we also remain committed to the highest standards of integrity,” Sharkey said. “We strive to follow federal expectations without impeding the research process. To do this, we periodically need to review our policies and look to improve them so that we remain compliant with federal, state and local laws, as well as other regulations, guidance and best practices.”


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