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Expert Paper on European-wide Model Agreements

In 2009, the European Commission (DG Research & Innovation) set up a working group on knowledge transfer. Within this group, Tanja Schöpke, who at that time served as one of the DESCA co-coordinators on behalf of Fraunhofer, drafted an expert paper on “Options for a European-wide model agreement for contract research / collaborative research”. During her mission, Tanja was actively supported by the DESCA core and consultation groups.
The paper focuses on the use and content of model agreements for research collaborations between the private and public sectors. It analyses underlying scenarios of collaborations, as well as the potential impact of different national legal systems and different industry sectors on the content of an agreement. It also examines critical and controversial issues involved in contract negotiations and the feasibility of adopting European-wide model agreements for contract and collaborative research.

Here are some key conclusions from the study:

• The key challenge with model agreements is to find a balanced solution for diverging interests. If a model agreement does not mutually balance the diverging interests of the partners, it does more harm than good to the stakeholders it is intended to help.
• As a rule, negotiations must be based on interests and shared objectives, not on positions.
• Model agreements must provide recommended options for different scenarios of research collaboration. In addition to this, guidelines could be provided in cases where an agreement can not be found among the partners or where no precise scenario seems to correspond to a given situation.
• The complexity of and differences between national legal systems and industry sectors do not seem to be major obstacles to development of pan-European model agreements.
• European-wide model agreements should be developed by a stakeholder driven process. An equal number of representatives of different member states of the public and private sector, as well as of different industry sectors should be represented in the stakeholder group.
• The European Commission should not try to develop European-wide model agreements if stakeholders proved unable to agree upon standard scenarios for collaborations and/or optional provisions to balance critical diverging interests. In such cases, a set of guidelines including model clauses, links, tools and the like could be developed, in the light of the IP-Recommendations and the Code of Practice, and following the principles of Responsible Partnering.

The report of the expert group can be found here.