UC Berkeley News



28 November 2007

EBI contract is signed
Some key questions about the Energy Biosciences Institute are answered online at newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/EBIcontract. An abridged set of these frequently asked questions appears here.

In what areas does the final contract significantly differ from the proposal submitted to BP a year ago?
The final contract fleshes out in detail the outlines of governance and [intellectual-property] management and memorializes the details laid out in the original proposal. The proposal was not intended to be, and could not have been, written at the level of detail that is required to establish and run a large-scale, decade-long research program. Much has been added to clarify EBI governance, oversight, roles and responsibilities, dispute resolution, use of names and trademarks, termination, indemnification, reporting, and the like. Much greater detail concerning IP ownership rights, IP license terms, and background IP rights is present in the contract than was feasible in the proposal, as these details had to be discussed and agreed upon by all participating parties.

Why does the EBI Governance Board include four members appointed by Berkeley and four appointed by BP? Why isn't there a Berkeley-appointed majority?
Decisions of the Governance Board will be by majority vote. At least five board members must be present to constitute a quorum, including at least one member from Berkeley. Thus, each side will have veto power over the other and collaborative decision-making will be encouraged.

How does having the EBI on campus benefit Berkeley?
Alternative energy has already been identified as a major research commitment of the Berkeley campus. The EBI funding greatly enhances the opportunity for Berkeley faculty and students to pursue groundbreaking research in this arena.

Berkeley will also benefit from the fact that EBI funding helps provide for the creation of a permanent new research facility for the campus. In addition to providing state-of-the art laboratory and office space, the fact that researchers affiliated with the programs are moving into this new space will make the campus lab space they formerly occupied available to other researchers. This will help the campus address some of the significant long-term laboratory-space challenges it faces.

Additionally, the EBI will fund 50 percent of the academic salaries for six new full-time-equivalent (FTE) faculty and 100 percent of the EBI director's academic salary at Berkeley. The EBI is also providing $1 million in startup funds and $500,000 in renovation costs to support each of these seven positions.

How are the mission and values of public universities like Berkeley and UIUC protected in the contract with BP?
Berkeley has extensive policies governing university-industry relations, available for review online (www.ucop.edu/ott/genresources/unindrel.htm). Eight core principles (www.ucop.edu/ott/genresources/principles.html) are set forth in these policies to safeguard academic values and to address rights to future research results in contracts with external parties.

These principles protect the education, research, and public-service mission of the university, while meeting the government's mandate under the Bayh-Dole Act to speed the application of basic research to the benefit of society. These principles have served Berkeley well through a long and productive history of collaboration with industry, most notably with the information-technology and biotechnology industries, contributing enormously to the local, state, and national economies.

All results of research conducted in the open component of the EBI are expected to be published, just as other sponsored research is expected to be published. If BP licenses IP emerging from the open component of the EBI, BP will be obligated to pursue commercialization with due diligence, just like any other industry licensee of Berkeley IP. Diligence obligations include periodic reporting requirements on technology development, commercial assessment, and milestones. Assessment includes economic feasibility, technical feasibility and applicable supporting technology, infrastructure, and regulatory approvals.

What contract provisions ensure the academic freedom of faculty and graduate students and protect their intellectual independence?
The research in the open component is academic in nature and will be published. BP, however, will have the right to review research results before publication to assess whether it wants to suggest that Berkeley patent intellectual property described in the publication that BP would like to license, and to ensure that no proprietary information is inadvertently revealed. This "pre-publication review" is standard practice for all industry-sponsored research. University research will not be performed in the proprietary component of the EBI.

The Berkeley campus and the UC Office of the President have extensive policies in place to ensure the openness of the research enterprise and the freedom of UC faculty, postgraduates, and students to publish their research results without restriction.

The following principles guide university openness and academic freedom:

. Researchers (principal investigators, postdoctoral fellows, and students) decide for themselves whether or not they will participate in a given sponsored research project, regardless of the funding source.

. When Berkeley researchers choose to seek research funding from a company under a sponsored research agreement, they draft a proposed work plan describing research that is academically appropriate for university researchers to perform, the results of which will be published.

. Publication at the university is a fundamental right. In the typical corporate-sponsored research agreement, sponsors receive the right to review publications (and public presentations) before they are disseminated, but are not given editorial rights.

In the end, the most robust enforcer of academic freedom is the respect of Berkeley faculty for the academic tradition itself.

How many new faculty will be hired as stipulated by the EBI contract?
The Berkeley campus will hire seven new FTE faculty members for the EBI. These positions are not permanent augmentations of the existing faculty headcount; rather, they would count against units' target sizes within the next one to two separations. All of these faculty positions will be filled through the normal review-and-appointment process for the campus. The research areas for these FTE must fit into the long-range plans of the departments that propose to assume responsibility for seeking to fill them.