The UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) has launched a new initiative to encourage collaborative projects between academic researchers and the biomedical industry.

The MRC Industry Collaboration Award (MICA) can be channelled through any of the Council’s existing research funding schemes, such as Programme Grants, Research Grants or the Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme.

The key feature of the new award, the MRC says, is its flexibility, particularly in respect of the nature and extent of industry’s contribution. “We hope this will prove catalytic in initiating many more partnerships, particularly when compared with the MRC Open LINK scheme, which MICAs supersede,” the Council comments.

Applications must involve at least one eligible research organisation and one company. They can be made in one of two categories: Fully Flexible and Gated Contributions.

In the first category, there is no required minimum level of contribution from industry. Any intellectual property rights (IPR) generated by the academic partner must be fully allocated to that partner. The industry partner may have a right to negotiate for access to the academic partner’s IPR at a fair market price; however, terms cannot be agreed until the collaboration is concluded.

With Gated Contributions, applications fall within the legislative framework of the European Union’s collaborative R&D scheme and are made when the industry partner wants to pre-negotiate the distribution of IPR generated by the collaboration. Here, the value of the industry contribution must be at least 25% of the total project for basic research and 50% for applied research.

In general, the MRC will expect the industry partner to meet its own costs under the scheme.

Funding decisions for MICAs will be made on the basis of scientific quality; whether the requested funding and proposed collaboration are essential for the planned research to go ahead; and evidence that potential conflicts of interest can be well managed and intellectual property distributed appropriately.

As the MRC explained, the new scheme recognises the important role collaborations can play in helping to helping to translate research into healthcare improvements and enhance economic prosperity – key priorities for the Council and central to its overall mission.