MRC industry collaboration agreement (MICA) - MRC

The MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) encourages and supports collaborative research projects between academic and industry researchers. It is an agreement between the commercial and academic partners to undertake collaborative research.

The key feature of the MICA is its flexibility, allowing the level and nature of the industry contribution to vary according to scientific needs, from cash and time input to sharing compounds and staff. Companies of any size may participate, from spin-outs and SMEs to major pharma.

What qualifies as a MICA

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 our 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, for example
    MICA: Characterisation of a novel series of small molecule androgen receptor modulators in prostate cancer
  • include a completed MICA form (DOC, 170KB) (guidance) attached as a pdf in the ‘Attachments’ section of Je-S, see MICA Annex (DOC, 75KB)
  • 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 three months of the issue of an award letter and before the project begins.

Who can apply

Normal MRC eligibility criteria for our 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 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 ‘Guidance and contact information’).

MICA form

Every MICA application needs to include a MICA form (DOC, 170KB) (guidance) and a Heads of Terms (DOC, 75KB), (not required at 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 or 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 collaborators and, if so, how conflicts of interests between the parties are being managed
  • the value of the industrial party’s contribution
  • how intellectual property 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: 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: Original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge and 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 one or more of the following.

Basic research:

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

Applied research:

  • the outcome of the proposed work has a limited range of applications focusing on specific needs and market opportunities
  • the results of the proposed work are mainly restricted to determining the feasibility or otherwise of the proposed product or 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.

Heads of terms (HoT)

The heads of terms (HoT) facilitates academic and 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 (see below), 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
  • intellectual property management and distribution arrangements
  • publications and announcements
  • withdrawal or 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 HoT.

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

Intellectual property arrangements

To be eligible for funding, MICA proposals must meet either the fully flexible or gated contributions requirements as set out below. The intellectual property (IP) management and distribution arrangements in the heads of terms (HoT) must therefore reflect the requirements of the appropriate category and the nature of the proposed work. See basic or applied research.

Fully flexible contributions’ requirements:

  • industry partner does not seek a pre-negotiated right to any academically generated foreground project IP. It may be acceptable for the partner to receive a non-exclusive license to use any data for internal research and development, where this explicitly excludes any rights to or capacity to prevent exploitation of these data by the academic party
  • no required minimum level of industrial partner’s contribution
  • intellectual property rights (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 requirements:

  • 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 Definition of basic and applied research (total project costs are industry plus academic costs).

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

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. We 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, we do 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: Research Funding Policy and Delivery, Medical Research Council, Polaris House,North Star Avenue, Swindon, SN2 1FL

Please also send an electronic copy of the agreement by email to: rfpd@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

Eligibility

Q: Which organisations are eligible?

A: Normal MRC eligibility criteria for MRC grant applicants apply. In addition applications must involve at least one company and one research council approved research organisation. This scheme aims to encourage collaborative research between research organisations and industry.

UK companies of any size may participate in partnership with an eligible research organisation, and multinational companies may do so provided they have a significant manufacturing or research base in the UK. However, if the only or most appropriate industrial partner that could be justified scientifically was a non-UK industrial partner this is also acceptable.

Q: Can MRC units and institutes apply?

A: Yes but only in cases where the lead applicant is eligible for the chosen research funding scheme – that is, managed mode or strategic applications. Where the MRC institute or unit is the lead applicant, any MRC award will be made on the basis of 100% directly incurred costs only and will not include indirect or estates costs.

Q: Is my UK institution eligible?

A: Eligible organisations fall into three categories:

  • UK higher education institutions (HEIs)
  • research council institutes
  • independent research organisation (IROs)

All eligible lead research organisations must also be registered with the MRC to apply for funding via the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S). If you are unsure whether your research organisation is registered or is eligible, email the Je-S helpdesk: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org.

Please note that the registration process can take up to 10 working days. Your organisation will only be registered once all documents have been assessed and your eligibility confirmed.

Q: Does my application have to include an industry partnership

A: Yes. In addition, the industrial partner must be included as a project partner on the Je-S application and a representative of the industrial partner should be named on the MICA form.

Q: Do I need to specify the level of the industrial partner’s contribution on the Je-S application?

A: Yes. For all applications, MRC will expect to see evidence of commitment to the venture from both the research organisation and the company. You will need to provide details as to how the collaboration will work and what contributions each party is making. The cash or in-kind contribution of the industrial partner should be entered into the project partners contribution fields. You should also provide a detailed breakdown of these costs on the MICA form (DOC, 170KB) (guidance). Also see MICA Annex (DOC, 75KB).

Q: Can the valueof the partnership be counted in resources rather than £ sterling?

A: Yes.

Q: What about intellectual property (IP) rights?

A: The MRC does not deal with IP rights arising from research funded by grants for extramural research. The host research organisation will have to handle this with the industrial collaborator (taking care to retain IP rights themselves). The agreed distribution of project generated IP must be consistent with the requirements of the EC approved grant for collaborative research and development scheme.

MRC will need agreement and confirmation that the data generated from this research can be placed in the public domain within a reasonable timeframe.

Any MRC establishments or directly-employed MRC staff will need to discuss IP with MRC Technology.

Funding

Q: When will funds be available from?

A: We are keen for grants to start as early as possible after the awards are announced. Early planning for any regulatory submissions, for example, use of animals, will help to prevent delays to initiating awarded projects.

Q: Will the application attract full economic costs (FEC)?

A: Applicants need to show the full costs of a research project to the research organisation. The MRC will meet 80% of these costs (unless there are exceptions).

Q: Will awards be pruned?

A: Only under exceptional circumstances will awards be pruned. Therefore, it is important that applications are appropriately costed and represent clear value for money. If you over or under bid, it is likely your application will be rejected.

Preparing an application

Q: How do I find out if my organisation is registered to use Je-S?

A: All eligible lead research organisations must also be registered with the MRC to apply for funding via Je-S. If you are unsure whether your research organisation is registered or is eligible, email the Je-S helpdesk: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org.

Please note that the registration process can take up to 10 working days. Your organisation will only be registered once all documents have been assessed and your eligibility confirmed.

Q: When preparing a Je-S application, what grant scheme and scientific contact do I select?

A: You should first choose the grant scheme (research grant, programme grant, developmental pathway funding scheme, call) that is most appropriate for your proposed research and then follow the specific guidance of this scheme to determine which Je-S grant scheme and scientific contact you should select.

Q: What evidence do I need to provide to support the proposed academic – industry partnership?

A: We will require a Heads of Terms signed by the applicant and the industrial partners showing that they are willing to collaborate for the duration of the study. The Heads of Terms should also set out the distribution of Intellectual Property.

Q: How do I submit the MICA form and heads of terms?

A: Applications will only be accepted using Je-S. The MICA form (DOC, 170KB) (guidance) (also see MICA Annex (DOC, 75KB)) and Heads of Terms should be saved as PDFs and uploaded in the ‘attachments’ section of your Je-S application.

Q: When is the deadline for submission of the proposal?

A: If you are applying to a call for proposals, the deadline is that given in the call. For other applications, please check which of the MRC’s research boards awards grants in your scientific area and check its application deadlines dates.

Q: Do I need to submit a MICA form for each industrial collaborator?

A: Only one MICA form should be submitted, this should list all collaborators
Communications

Q: Can I publish data generated from a MICA collaboration?

A: The restrictions on communication of data generated must be identified in the Heads of Terms and the collaboration agreement. MRC will need agreement and confirmation that the data generated from this research can be placed in the public domain within a reasonable timeframe.

Other

Q: If my query is not answered by the FAQs, or I have a scientific query regarding my application, who do I contact?

A: If your query concerns the MICA application form or MICA application process, please contact grants@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk. If you have a query about the scientific aspect of your application, please contact the persons named in the call or the relevant MRC programme manager on the research boards contacts page.

Q: Who should I contact for queries concerning preparing my Je-S application form?

A: Please refer to the applicant’s handbook (PDF, 897KB) and Je-S handbook for details in preparing your application and the specific scheme applicant guidance.

Je-S helpdesk
Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org
Telephone: 01793 44 4164

Please note that the Je-S helpdesk voicemail will log calls at all other times and will take messages if the line is already in use.

Guidance and contact information

Please refer to the guidance for applicants (PDF, 897KB), MICA annex (DOC, 75KB) and Je-S handbook for details in preparing your application. Our website will provide more guidance on the specific call or funding scheme you are submitting your MICA application to.

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.

Contacts for more information

Non-scientific, pre-submission or pre-award queries
Email: rfpd@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk
Telephone: 01793 416440

Non-scientific, post-award queries
Email: paa@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk
Telephone: 01793 416440

Je-S helpdesk
Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org
Telephone: 01793 44 4164

See more information on MRC’s partnerships with industry.

Last updated: 25 August 2021

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