Overview and FAQs
Information for Researchers
Mobilize your research results beyond publication
Our team offers the Dalhousie research community advising and support services in the areas of industry-sponsored partnerships and technology transfer. This includes research community members working in a research capacity at the university, Nova Scotia Health (NSH), and the IWK Health Centre.
We're knowledgeable, approachable, and committed to building lasting relationships that serve our research community. Learn more about the OCIE team.
On this page, we cover:
Industry-sponsored Research & Service Agreements
Research collaboration or service agreements with industry partners are ways you can mobilize discoveries, knowledge and skillsets outside of academia. In these cases, researchers help partners better understand or solve technical problems, improve efficiencies within their operations, or conduct necessary testing with specialized equipment.
The Office of Commercialization and Industry Engagement facilitates the development of all formal agreements between the Dal research community and industry.
Industry partnerships of this nature provide researchers with:
- Funding for labs and research activities
- Knowledge mobilization in the form of publications
- Opportunities to apply research and explore new areas of interest
- Experiential learning and networking opportunities for students and post-doctoral fellows
Below are examples of how our team has helped Dalhousie researchers establish formal partnerships with industry partners to deliver the following results:
- Increasing blueberry production with Oxford Frozen Foods. Read more.
- The development of treatments for use in aquaculture with NovaEel. Read more.
IP & Protection
Intellectual property (IP) considerations apply when a researcher discovers something new and uses that knowledge to invent a process or product with potential value.
Intellectual property refers to "creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create." (World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
As per the university’s creator-owned IP practice, a researcher usually owns the IP of their invention. As the commercialization partner for Dal’s research community, our experienced OCIE team works with researchers interested in commercialization opportunities to assess the potential commercial value and patentability associated with their IP. If we believe we can add value to their invention, the researcher can choose to assign their IP to the university for our team to manage collaboratively. The Intellectual Property Transfer Agreement is the tool used in such cases.
In close consultation with the researcher, our team will pursue the appropriate protection of Dalhousie-assigned IP. Patent applications are typically the most effective for inventors seeking commercialization. The OCIE patent legal fund covers all associated costs.
Patents limit the use of an invention to the rightful owners within the specific region where the patent(s) is issued. Obtaining a granted patent can take years, although pending patent applications still hold some value to potential licensing partners (i.e. a third-party who obtains rights from the owner to use their invention).
A patent is "an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application." (World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
The commercialization of inventions/technology that begin inside innovative research labs contributes to society’s overall capabilities and advancements in social sciences, science, health and medicine, agriculture and aquaculture, engineering, and technology. Commercialization is a way to extend the value of research to the general public.
Technology transfer occurs when the rights to a invention are issued to a third-party (i.e. industry partner) through a licensing agreement, with commercialization being the ultimate goal. Generally speaking, universities are well-positioned to create new and valuable innovations, whereas the right industry partner will have the desire, resources and know-how to carry out commercialization activities for those innovations. This type of partnership gives early-stage inventions a higher chance of maturing into market-ready tools, products and services that will reach the general public.
Researchers that pursue technology transfer and the commercialization of their inventions are:
- Participating in knowledge mobilization
- Potentially stimulating economic and social growth
- Potentially creating additional research funding for their laboratory
The OCIE team has helped Dalhousie inventors establish licencing partnerships to commercialize their research. Examples include:
- An algorithm that delivers more precisely targeted radiation therapy to cancer patients, resulting in less damage to surrounding healthy organs and tissue during treatment. Read more.
- A topical, non-invasive treatment for the removal of tattoo ink on the skin. Read more.
In some cases, Dal researchers have gotten involved in start-up companies created specifically to commercialize their inventions. If this path is of interest to you, visit our Information for Startups section next.
We support researchers whose research activity has:
- led to an invention/new technology with potential value
- potential for industrial or social application within relevant fields
- gained the interest of a potential industry partner
- potential to become the foundation of a new start-up company
Learn how we typically manage each of those situations below.
If you think you’ve invented something…
Here's what you can expect.
- Contact us to discuss your invention or disclose your invention using the Invention Disclosure form. We'll assign an appropriate manager to further assist you.
- We’ll review your disclosure information and work with you to assess the invention for patentability and commercial potential.
- You’ll make a decision about the ownership of your invention’s IP: a) maintain all rights or b) assign the IP to Dalhousie using the Intellectual Property Transfer Agreement (IPTA) [PDF 202 KB]. Learn more about the IPTA here.
- If you assign the invention to Dal, OCIE will consult with you during the patent application process and the development of a commercialization plan that includes marketing the invention to potential licensing partners. All associated costs are covered by OCIE’s patent legal fund.
- As discussions with potential licensing partners progress, the OCIE facilitates a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) [PDF 299 KB] between the university and the third-party to protect the best interests of all parties. Learn more about NDAs here.
- When a suitable industry partner is identified, we'll continue consulting with you as we manage the development of a formal licensing agreement between the university and the partner. You’ll be required to be available for consultation and provide additional information and signatures when needed. Learn more about license agreements here.
- Any revenue generated through license agreements and successful commercialization is split 50/50 between you and the university after the university has recouped its patent and legal expenses. The university re-invests its half of revenue into OCIE’s patent legal fund to continue supporting commercialization activities for Dalhousie researchers.
Please note: Inventions with commercial potential can be assigned to the university for OCIE to manage in collaboration with the researcher. Unfortunately, not all inventions are patentable or have a strong market potential. In those cases, the university will not proceed with taking IP assignment or patenting the invention. All IP rights will remain with the researcher.
If your research team’s knowledge, skill, or instrumentation can be useful to industry…
Here’s what you can expect.
- Contact us to discuss how you might help an industry partner through a research collaboration agreement (e.g. R&D) or service agreement (e.g. running tests).
- Our team will work through its network of industry contacts to identify potential partnerships — we’re always meeting with industry to raise awareness of Dalhousie’s research strengths and capabilities. In some cases, you might have potential partners in mind already. Connecting your research interests with industry partners can be a time-consuming process, but we do our best to find a match. However, in some cases identifying a suitable industry partner may not be possible.
- We’ll share information on potential funding sources that support industry partnership, such as Dal’s Science and Technology Assistance Program (supported by NRC’s IRAP funding), or the NSBI Innovation Voucher Award and others.
- Should a potential partnership arise, our team will facilitate a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) if needed. This will cover confidentiality concerns for all parties so the scope of work can be discussed in appropriate detail. The nature of the collaboration will be assessed to determine if the formal agreement is best supported by a research collaboration agreement or a service agreement.
- The process to formalize the appropriate agreement begins. You’ll be expected to provide information and input throughout (e.g., budget and statement of work). You’ll also have the opportunity to completely review any documents before anything is signed.
If someone from industry reaches out to you to explore collaboration opportunities…
Here’s what you can expect.
- Contact us to let us know about a potential research collaboration agreement (e.g. R&D) or service agreement (e.g. running tests). Our team facilitates all formal agreements between researchers and industry partners at the university. We can also simply offer advice to support any conversations with industry that you may be having.
- We’ll share information on funding sources that support industry partnership, such as Dal’s Science and Technology Assistance Program (supported by NRC’s IRAP funding), or the NSBI Innovation Voucher Award Program and others.
- As discussions between the prospective industry partner and researcher progress, we’ll facilitate a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) if needed, so the scope of work can be discussed with in appropriate detail. The nature of the collaboration will be assessed to determine if the formal agreement is best supported by a research collaboration agreement or a service agreement.
- The process to formalize the appropriate agreement begins. You’ll be expected to provide information and input throughout. You’ll also have the ability to completely review any documents before anything is signed.
Under which circumstances should I be working with OCIE?
Contact us if you believe you/your research activity at Dalhousie has:
- led to an invention/new technology that you’re interested in commercializing*
- potential for industrial application within relevant fields (e.g. if you’re interested in working with a partner on a collaborative research project)
- gained the interest of an industry contact who wants to partner (e.g. if you’ve been approached by an industry representative hoping to collaborate)
- potential to become the foundation of a new start-up company
We can help you explore your options and determine next steps.
*In the case of inventions/new technology, it’s particularly important to reach out to us as early as possible. Any public disclosure related to your invention (including academic publication or presentation) can affect patent rights.
What is Dalhousie’s intellectual property (IP) policy and who owns technology invented at the university?
Dalhousie has a creator-owned IP practice*, which means the researcher/inventor is usually the owner of that IP. Should the IP have good potential for patentability and commercialization, researchers can then choose to either:
- Disclose their invention [PDF 174 KB] and then assign the IP to the university for OCIE to manage using the Intellectual Property Transfer Agreement (IPTA) [PDF 202 KB]. Learn more about the IPTA here.
- Remain sole owner of the IP
When researchers assign IP to the university OCIE will assess the invention/technology for commercial value and, if suitable, file an application for a patent. Then our team works to identify potential licensing partners who can commercialize the invention.
If successful, OCIE facilitates the development of a formal license agreement between the university and the industry partner. Researchers remain closely involved throughout OCIE’s management of the invention. All fees associated with the patent and technology transfer process will be covered by the OCIE’s patent legal fund.
When researchers maintain full rights to the IP, OCIE can provide some informal advice but the researcher is ultimately responsible for assessing the commercial potential of their invention, managing any possible IP Protection and license agreements, and covering all associated costs.
Patenting, licensing and commercializing inventions is a comprehensive and time-consuming endeavour. When researchers assign IP to Dal for commercialization purposes, OCIE is ultimately responsible for seeing that process through. This relieves inventors of the heavy administrative and financial pressures associated with technology transfer and commercialization. Our team has considerable experience and expertise in the commercialization process, IP, and industry partnerships that can add significant value to the process.
OCIE manages all of the IP assigned to the university in close consultation with the researcher(s).
If I assign the IP to Dalhousie, can I still be involved in what happens with my invention?
Absolutely. In fact, researchers play an important role in our management of the invention. As the subject matter experts, researchers know the invention better than anyone and can provide essential insight to the commercialization team. Researchers also help to identify potential markets and suitable licensing partners for technology transfer and commercialization. OCIE is ultimately responsible for decision-making about the invention, but we work to ensure that inventors are informing those decisions.
If I assign the IP of my invention to Dalhousie but then change my mind, what are my options?
OCIE will proceed with the termination of the Intellectual Property Transfer Agreement (IPTA) in accordance with the appropriate termination conditions.
How do I disclose an invention to the university?
Please note: Our goal is to ensure Dalhousie researchers are well-informed about their options. If you want to meet with a member of our team before proceeding, please contact us. We’re happy to meet with you at any time.
How much does it cost to obtain a patent?
Assuming you're using an appropriate patent agent, filing a patent application can cost between $10,000-20,000 depending on the country in which the patent will operate. After filing, the patent prosecution stage can cost $30,000 and up. Once a patent is obtained, there will be annual fees associated with keeping that patent active. Obtaining a patent can typically take 3-4 years or longer, and it will be effective from the date that the application was first filed for up to 20 years.
There were several people involved in an invention. How is the “inventor” determined for patenting purposes?
This is a common scenario because of the collaborative nature of academic research. There can be more than one inventor, and students can be inventors too. It’s up to the research group to establish IP ownership*.
Our team can best support your commercialization goals if the inventors of the technology are clearly established before we begin working together.
* It should be noted that authorship and IP ownership are not interchangeable concepts. IP ownership is a legal definition, whereas authorship means attribution. If you'd like to know more about this, please contact us. We're happy to help.
Please note: A student's IP should be finalized before they join your lab so that the ownership of future IP generated by students is understood by all in your lab. That way, when a commercialization opportunity arises, research groups are well-equipped to answer inventorship and ownership questions.
Please note: In the case of a collaboration opportunity that may lead to an invention with researchers from another university or institution, Dalhousie and the other research institution will enter into an Inter-Institutional Agreement so the IP ownership is understood by all involved before the collaboration begins.
How does the publication or presentation of my invention affect patenting, technology transfer, and commercialization efforts?
Any public disclosure of your invention before a patent application is submitted can limit or damage the patent protection of your invention. That’s why it’s important to reach out to OCIE as early as possible to discuss your invention, options, and any upcoming plans you have to publish, present, or otherwise publicly communicate details about the work in question.
You’ll also need to consider any non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that have already been arranged in relation to your invention.
When patents, technology transfer and commercialization efforts generate revenue, how is it distributed?
As per the Intellectual Property Transfer Agreement, revenue from Dal-assigned inventions first goes to recoup the direct costs related to patent and legal fees invested to support the successful commercialization.
Once those direct costs are covered, revenue is split 50/50 between the inventors(s) and Dalhousie University. The university puts its half back into OCIE’s patent and legal fund — an evergreen fund that covers patent and legal expenses for all Dal-assigned inventions to continuously support tech transfer and commercialization efforts within our research community.
How are licensing partners identified?
A licensing partner(s) is a company who has obtained rights to a Dal-invented technology under agreed-upon “fields of use” through a licensing agreement. Learn more about license agreements here.
Each Dalhousie invention will have its own commercialization strategy that includes several potential partners that will be engaged. Industry engagement is a core component of OCIE’s mandate, so we have a broad network of industry contacts to work with and we target our marketing of Dalhousie inventions to companies accordingly.
In some cases, it's helpful if the inventor has their own industry contact or ideas around companies with partnership potential.
What happens if the commercialization of my invention is unsuccessful?
If there are no commercialization prospects and all best efforts have been exhausted after an appropriate period of time, the IP will be returned to the inventor and OCIE will absorb all related commercialization, patent, and legal expenses incurred to date.
I don’t have an invention, but I’m interested in collaborating with an industry partner on research. How can I do that?
I’m a student looking to gain industry experience related to research. What are my options?
Mitacs is research and innovation platform that links post-secondary institutions with industry. Opportunities such as the Mitacs Accelerate program match student researchers with companies and fund their research activity together. Learn more about Mitacs programming.