Contract Research and Consultancy
The University values working in partnership with external organizations to reinforce the research and knowledge exchange (KE) pillars. Academic staff members may, as part of their work portfolio at the University, undertake research and KE projects funded by outside organizations through contract research and consultancy, respectively, to meet the specific needs of businesses, industries, social enterprises, and the public sector. As the University is a publicly funded, research-led organisation, staff members engaging in contract research projects should ensure that there are significant intellectual input, innovation and/or R&D elements in the projects, and should avoid work that can be routinely carried out by industrial/commercial firms in the private sector. When considering whether to engage in KE as HKU employees, colleagues should always consider the level of knowledge, expertise and independence and the public benefit, to ensure that they can defend this activity as appropriate for HKU employees to engage in and not be seen as unfair competition. This restriction, however, may not apply to projects hosted in subsidiary companies or entities of the University that are self-funded.
Colleagues are advised to approach the relevant office for assistance based on the type of agreement. A list of the most common types of agreements and their respective processing offices can be viewed at https://intraweb.hku.hk/local/rss/agreement-processing-offices.htm.
In accordance with the University Grants Committee’s definitions:
- Contract Research refers to efforts which would lead to the delivery of a product or process and could involve both basic and applied research, though the latter is much more prevalent. Contract Research is client-specific and is generally sponsored and financed by the client who can be either a private company or a public body or government.
- Consultancy is defined as the provision of expert advice and work usually paid for at a market rate, which, while it may involve a degree of analysis, measurement or testing, is crucially dependent on a high degree of intellectual input from the client organization (commercial or non-commercial) without the creation of new knowledge (although new understanding is the main desired impact).
As some external organizations may refer to an agreement for this type of projects as service agreement, ‘service project for KE purpose’ is used as an alternative term for such projects commissioned by organizations outside the academia.
In accordance with the University's guidelines, contract research agreements and consultancy agreements / service agreements for KE should be reviewed by the relevant offices and signed by the authorized representative on behalf of the University. Colleagues should approach the following offices for assistance in handling these agreements:
Research Services (RS): Agreements for Contract Research projects, including sponsored research agreements, collaboration agreements, material transfer agreement and non-disclosure agreements.
Knowledge Exchange Office (KEO): Consultancy Agreement (where the university is the legal holder of the consultancy contract), including agreements for service projects for KE.
Staff are reminded to read the related internal circular/emails before preparation of the draft agreement:
- Minimum working days of processing time for TTO legal team (June 26, 2021)
- Using HKU agreement templates for technology transfer, knowledge exchange and contract research (March 6, 2021)
- University’s new policy on contract research (May 7, 2020)
- Professoriate staff on involvement in outside companies or organizations (March 17, 2020)
To initiate the review and clearance process, Principal Investigators (PIs) should submit the following documents to the relevant offices as mentioned above:
- a draft agreement (in Word format);
- details of the work to be performed by the PI and the project budget (note that all Contract Research and Consultancy projects are subject to the University's overhead charge); and
- the completed Information Form for Research/Consultancy Agreements duly signed by the Head of Department or the Faculty Dean, who is required to confirm, inter alia, the eligibility of the PI.
Upon receipt of all the necessary documents, RS / KEO will assist PIs in the following process:
- coordinate the review of the agreement by the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) and the Finance and Enterprises Office (FEO) to ensure that all the proposed terms and conditions are consistent with the relevant policies of the University;
- arrange for the agreement to be signed by the authorized representative on behalf of the University once the terms and conditions are confirmed by all the relevant parties;
- input the agreement information to the Research and Conference Grants Administration System (RCGAS) such that the project will be listed in the PI's Academic Portfolio of Achievement (APA) and also contribute to the yearly reporting on research and KE from the University to the UGC; and
- assign an RCGAS number, with a prefix of "RS" or "KE" as appropriate, to each signed agreement to facilitate PIs to open a non-UGC funded project account with FEO.
Some templates of research related agreements, which were prepared by the Technology Transfer Office for reference purpose, are available on the Research Services website. In the event that any amendment is required, please contact RS or KEO, for assistance and initiation of the vetting process for Contract Research and Consultancy, respectively. PIs from the technology-based disciplines may also seek contract research / consultancy support from TTO/Versitech.
Researchers are responsible for complying with all the terms and conditions of the contract agreement and performing all the work as stated in the contract. Please visit Research Services for more details.