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MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA)

Supporting collaborative research between academia and industry

 

What is a MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement?

Any research proposal involving a collaboration with one or more industrial partners (contributing either in cash or in kind) is handled by MRC as a MICA. MICA is not a scheme in itself, but a mechanism to support the establishment of an agreement between academic and industry research partners, which can be applied to the majority of MRC’s funding schemes and calls (to find out if you can apply a MICA to your proposal, please refer to your specific scheme or call). MICA facilitates collaboration as it allows partners to work out and clearly specify arrangements for relative responsibilities, governance, regulatory approvals, indemnity, intellectual property rights, reporting, and access to data and samples before a project starts. In addition, MICAs help to establish that proposed collaboration arrangements are eligible under EU State-Aid regulations for MRC funding.

 

Quick checklist for MICAs:

If a proposal involves industry collaboration, applicants need to:

  • Label their proposal ‘’MICA:’’ before the project title
    (as in MICA: Characterisation of a novel series of small molecule androgen receptor modulators in prostate cancer).
  • include a completed MICA form attached as a pdf in the ‘Attachments’ section of Je-S.
  • include an agreed Heads of Terms, attached as a pdf in the ‘Attachments’ section of Je-S.
  • provide the name of their industrial partner’s organisation, the name of their industry partner’s contact and their industrial partner’s contribution under the ‘Project partner’ section in Je-S.
  • If the proposal is awarded – successful applicants will need to submit a hard copy of a signed Collaboration agreement within 3 months of the issue of an award letter and before the project begins.

 

Who can apply?

Normal MRC eligibility criteria for MRC grant applicants apply; in addition applications will involve at least one research organisation and at least one company. The lead applicant must be an academic partner from an organisation eligible for the chosen MRC funding scheme. A nominated company representative from the industrial partner should be listed as a project partner on the Je-S application. All MICA proposals need to be labelled “MICA:” as a prefix to the project title.

 

UK companies of any size may participate in partnership with an eligible research organisation. Overseas based companies may also participate, where it can be established that their involvement is necessary for the delivery of the aims of the project.

 

The usual scheme specific conditions will apply to applications from Research Council Units and Institutes (if in doubt see ‘Contact and guidance’ section below).

 

How to apply?

Applicants should first consider the MRC funding scheme to which their application is best suited. Having selected the most appropriate funding scheme applicants should follow the requirements of the selected scheme when completing your Je-S application and:

  • Add the prefix MICA: to your project title (for example as in MICA: Characterisation of a novel series of small molecule androgen receptor modulators in prostate cancer).
  • Add the details of the industrial partner in the ‘Project Partner’ section of Je-S
  • In addition to your case for support, which is mandatory for all MRC applications, MICA applicants also need to complete and submit the MICA Form and a Heads of Terms as PDF documents in the attachments page of the Je-S system. The MICA form details should be consistent with the figures provided in the ‘Project Partner’ section.
  • Further guidance on attachments is provided in the MRC Applicants Handbook.

 

Successful applicants will also need to submit a signed Collaboration Agreement within 3 months of the issue of the award letter and in advance of the project starting.

 

 

MICA process. Please note that the flowchart above is meant as an overview of the general MICA process. For timelines relating to your specific application, please refer to the guidelines of your particular funding scheme.

 

MICA form

Every MICA application needs to include a MICA form (and a Heads of Terms), (full proposals need this, but it is not required at any outline stage) where applicants are asked to set out the following:

  • Details of the lead applicant and industrial partner;
  • The objectives of the collaboration;
  • The collaborators and their contributions;
  • Whether the proposal is basic or applied research;
  • How the results of the collaboration will be disseminated;
  • How the proposed collaboration/outsourcing either enables the planned research to be undertaken or enables the planned research to be undertaken to the required quality or timescale;
  • Why, in the absence of the requested funding, the planned research could not be undertaken or could not be undertaken to the required quality or timescale
  • Whether the academic applicants have a direct or indirect interest in the industrial collaborator(s) and, if so, how conflicts of interests between the parties are being managed;
  • The value of the industrial party’s contribution.
  • How IP emerging from the collaboration will be managed.

 

Definition of basic and applied research

The MICA form asks applicants to state whether their proposal is basic or applied.

 

The Frascati Manual - Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development, OECD, Paris, 2002 has the following definition of these two categories:

  • Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.
  • Applied research is also original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.

 

The assessment criteria that the MRC will use in determining the category of the proposed research will include:

Basic research

  • The outcome of the proposed work has many potential applications to a range of needs, processes or products and/or;
  • The results of the proposed work will provide significant insights into the mechanism of the targeted illness/condition, which might enable the development of alternative means of managing this illness/condition.

 

Applied research

  • The outcome of the proposed work has a limited range of applications focusing on specific needs and market opportunities and/or;
  • The results of the proposed work are mainly restricted to determining the feasibility or otherwise of the proposed product/solution?
  • Applied projects, although pre-competitive, would be nearer market than basic ones, with greater medium term potential benefit to industry.

 

In the case of applied research projects, an important criterion in the assessment for MICAs is the extent to which the research will be exploitable. The most appropriate method for exploitation and dissemination will vary from one industrial sector to another and for different kinds of project. It is up to the applicants to consider which means are most appropriate to their situation.

 

Dissemination of results

The arrangements for publishing the results of collaborative research may allow for the exclusion of privileged information, but should not otherwise be unreasonably restrictive as to content. Nor should there be more than the minimum delay in publication that is necessary to protect commercial interests. Subject to this, the academic investigator is expected to publish the results of the research assisted by this grant in accordance with academic practice. Any restrictions (such as the above) must be explicit in the collaboration agreement that accompanies the proposal.

 

Industrial partner contribution

Academic partners in MICA applications can seek support for those costs allowed under the relevant MRC funding scheme. In general, the MRC will expect the industrial party to meet its own costs. In calculating the value of the industrial partner(s) contribution the following costs may be included:

  • The salaries of the personnel working directly on the project;
  • Materials consumed in the course of the project;
  • Capital equipment purchased or constructed for the project, less its estimated value to the business at the end of the project;
  • Sub-contract charges and consultancy fees and cost of equivalent services used exclusively for the research activity, bought from outside sources project management costs such as travel, office space etc. that are addition to those normally involved;
  • An allowance for reasonable overheads.
  • Any cash contribution (if applicable).

 

The combined contribution (direct and indirect) from industry should be added to the MICA form with the FEC academic cost, in order to calculate the total project cost (industry + academic costs) and % of industry contribution.

Failure to submit a MICA application with a completed MICA form and agreed Heads of Terms may result in your application being rejected.

 

Heads of terms

The Heads of Terms (HoT) facilitates academic-industry collaborations as it allows partners to think through and work out arrangements for relative responsibilities in relation to governance, intellectual property rights, reporting, and access to data and samples before a project starts. The HoT should, as with the MICA form, be submitted together with your application. In contrast to the Collaboration agreement, the Heads of Terms is not a legally binding document. However, the terms set out in the two documents should be consistent with each other and any substantive post-award changes need to first be approved by the MRC.

 

The HoT should be agreed between the partners and set out the following:

  • Scope and aims of the proposed project;
  • Duration of project;
  • Key tasks and responsibilities of the partners;
  • Project management arrangements;
  • Financial/resource contributions;
  • IP management and distribution arrangements;
  • Publications and announcements;
  • Withdrawal/Change of Control;
  • Termination.

 

The maximum page limit for the HoT is six pages of A4. MRC does not have the capacity to broker agreements between collaborators, and does not provide a specific template for the Heads of Terms.

Failure to submit a MICA application with a completed MICA form and agreed Heads of Terms may result in your application being rejected.

 

IP arrangements

To be eligible for funding, MICA proposals must meet either the ‘Fully flexible’ or ‘Gated contributions’ requirements (as set out below). The IP management and distribution arrangements in the HoT must therefore reflect the requirements of the appropriate category and the nature of the proposed work (basic or applied research):

 

Fully flexible

  • Industry partner does not seek a pre-negotiated right to any academically generated foreground project IP
  • No required minimum level of industrial partner’s contribution.
  • IPR generated by the academic partner must be fully allocated to the academic partner.
  • The industrial partner may have a right to negotiate for access (at a fair market price) to the academic party’s IPR but terms cannot be agreed until the project is completed.

 

Gated contributions

  • The industry partner wishes to pre-negotiate the distribution of academically generated foreground project IP.
  • The value of the industry contribution must meet a minimum level of contribution (25% of total project costs for basic research or 50% of total project costs for applied research – for definition of basic and applied research please refer to the ‘MICA form’ section above). (Total project costs are industry + academic costs)

 

Ownership and responsibility for the exploitation of intellectual property generated through the activities of the academic party rests with the academic party’s institute. In the case of applications from MRC employees, intellectual property generated by the activities of these employees rests with MRC.

 

Assessment Criteria

In all cases, the decision on whether or not to support a proposal will depend upon:

  • scientific quality;
  • convincing MRC that in the absence of the requested funding and collaboration the planned research could not be undertaken, or that it could not be undertaken to the quality level or timescale proposed and;
  • the applicants demonstrating good management of potential conflicts of interest and that the agreed distribution of IP is appropriate.

 

Collaboration agreement

Any award offer will be conditional upon MRC receiving a copy of a fully signed, legally binding collaboration agreement, between the partners (which must be consistent with your submitted Heads of Terms) within three months of the issue of an award letter and in advance of a project starting. Changes to the collaboration agreement, including changes of partners, will require prior MRC approval. The MRC will need to be satisfied that the original aims of the project can still be met and that the project continues to meet EU State-Aid rules.

 

As with the Heads of Terms, MRC does not provide a template for the final agreement. Applicants may however want to consider using the Lambert agreement template or - if the project involves clinical research - the mICRA template agreement.

 

A signed hardcopy of the collaboration agreement should be sent to:

FAO: Medical Research Council

Research Funding Policy and Delivery

2nd floor, David Phillips building

Polaris House

North Star Avenue

Swindon SN2 1 FL

 

Please also send an electronic copy of the agreement to:

RFPD@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk (Research Funding Policy and Delivery)

 

Deadlines

The application deadlines are those of the chosen funding scheme.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and answers on MICA regarding eligibility, funding, preparing an application, assessment, ethics and governance can be found under Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Please refer to the applicants handbook, MICA annex and Je-S Help Pages for details in preparing your application and the MRC website for more guidance on the specific call or funding scheme you are submitting your MICA application to.

 

Contact and guidance

If you have a query about scientific aspects of your proposal, please contact the relevant MRC Programme Manager for your chosen funding scheme.

 

If you are applying in response to a MRC call, please refer to the relevant call contact person.

 

For general questions about MICA (non-scientific), please contact:

Industry@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

(for general MICA queries, eligibility, IP issues etc)

 

For non scientific, pre-submission or pre-award queries, please contact:

Grants Pre-award enquiries
GrantsMRC@ssc.rcuk.ac.uk

01793 867018

 

For non scientific, post-award queries, please contact:

Grants Post-award enquiries
GrantsPostAward@ssc.rcuk.ac.uk

01793 867121

 

Je-S help desk

https://je-s.rcuk.ac.uk/
JeSHelp@rcuk.ac.uk

https://je-s.rcuk.ac.uk/Handbook/Index.htm

01793 44 4164

 

For further information on MRC’s partnerships with industry, please visit our industry web pages.