New Models and New Practices in the Private Funding of Academic Research

Janet Bercovitz (University of Colorado Boulder)
Maryann Feldman (University of North Carolina)
Alex Graddy-Reed (University of Southern California)

Abstract: Private foundation funding of academic research has grown substantially over the past decade reaching $4.3B in 2010. The majority of foundation funding is allocated to research in the life sciences. Given a focus on the immediate needs of a specific patient population and the concomitant emphasis on translational advances, an emerging subset of foundation funders are acting as institutional entrepreneurs and promoting the adoption of a different model for sponsored research, that of venture philanthropy. The venture philanthropy model emphasizes the active management of the commercialization process, with the goal of accelerating scientific progress to material outcomes. This study investigates how these relatively new players are influencing the substance, practice and structure of academic research by examining contractual terms in sponsored research agreements. We explore two specific questions: (1) How do the terms in research agreements vary across funder types? And (2) what are the performance implications of the adoption of these contractual innovations?