Research Policy Handbook


Establishment of Industrial Affiliates and Related Membership-Supported Programs

Now in Policy Details

Presents policies, principles, and procedures for the establishment and operation of membership programs designed to promote a productive relationship between Stanford and industry.

1. Introduction

Industrial Affiliate Programs offer companies an opportunity to engage with University faculty, researchers, students, and industry peers in an open environment to discuss pre-competitive research and teaching activities in a field of mutual interest. In parallel, Industrial Affiliate Programs provide faculty and students with insight into the challenges and opportunities that face industry. The membership fees paid by members provide unrestricted financial support for the Affiliate Program’s research, teaching and administrative activities.

To safeguard the University’s academic and research objectives, it is important that Industrial Affiliate Programs be organized and maintained in ways that preserve the University’s academic integrity and independence. Other principles that apply to Affiliate Programs at Stanford -- as well as gifts and sponsored research -- include:

  1. Compliance with the University's Openness in Research Policy.
  2. Publication and broad sharing of research results.
  3. Faculty freedom to pursue research topics and methodologies of their choice.
  4. Conformance to the University's primary mission of teaching and research.
  5. Enrichment of the educational experience for students and post docs.

Affiliate Programs are distinct from both gifts and sponsored research in the way Affiliates funds are treated and the benefits Affiliate Program members receive.  Affiliate Programs are a “many-to-many” arrangement where multiple faculty engage with multiple companies in a forum for pre-competitive research of mutual interest.  All results from Affiliate Program research are to be shared with all members and made available to the general public.   Affiliate membership fees provide unrestricted income and are expended for research activities or administrative costs, at the discretion of the managing faculty.

Like gifts, fees for Affiliate Programs incur the University’s infrastructure charge. Unlike gifts, program members typically benefit from the Affiliate Program’s annual research reviews, newsletters and organized recruiting events.

Affiliate Programs differ from sponsored research, in that Affiliate Programs involve no commitment to provide specific research reports, no budget or specific work plan.  Because of their pre-competitive and multi-member nature, Affiliate Program membership cannot involve special rights to intellectual property. Research relationships that are more directed should be arranged through sponsored research agreements or gifts, as appropriate.

2. Program Guidelines

  1. Approval.  All new and ongoing Industrial Affiliate Programs must be approved annually by the cognizant Dean of the school or independent laboratory and the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.  The Dean of Research has delegated this responsibility to the Industrial Contracts Office (ICO) within the Office of Technology Licensing.  Faculty who wish to establish a new Industrial Affiliate Program or to continue an existing program must complete and submit the “Request for Approval/Renewal of Affiliate Program” to their cognizant dean’s office for approval.  The cognizant dean’s office will send the approved Request form to ICO.  ICO will coordinate its review and approval of each new and ongoing industrial Affiliate Programs with the relevant school dean’s office or, for the independent laboratories, the office of the Dean of Research.  
  2. Company Engagement. Membership in Industrial Affiliate Programs should be available equally to all companies prepared to meet the obligations of membership as set forth by each Affiliate Program, subject to constraints of the program’s size and focus and, in rare cases, to the approval of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research. Affiliate Programs may offer members active engagement with Stanford's research programs, relevant faculty, and students.
  3. Program Director. Each Affiliate Program must have a faculty director, who is a voting member of the Academic Senate. The director is responsible for compliance with Industry Affiliate Program policies and guidelines. Directors are accountable for program activities and assuring appropriate program expenditures.
  4. Students and Project Participation.  No Affiliate Program shall violate the rights and privileges of faculty or students or impair the education of students or restrict their subsequent career choices.  Signing confidentiality agreements with one or more members is not appropriate if access to the confidential data is so centrally related to the research that a member of the research group without access to the confidential data would be unable to participate fully in all of the intellectually significant portions of the project
  5. Class Support.  Companies sometimes support University classes through an Affiliate Program. In these cases, companies may not require completion of a project or the delivery of prototypes in a manner that could be construed as “work for hire.” Students may not be required to participate in class projects that require them to sign non-disclosure agreement nor can they be excluded from the class or a class project if they do not sign a non-disclosure agreement.  Students may not be excluded from participation in a class or a class project based on citizenship or other factors that would violate Stanford’s Openness in Research policy.
  6. Multiple Members.  Each industrial Affiliate Program must have, at a minimum, two active corporate members and two active faculty members.  Programs with fewer members or faculty will be reviewed and may be deactivated.
  7. Program Website.  Each Industrial Affiliate Program must create and maintain a public website that is operational and up-to-date. The website must include, at a minimum, a description of the program’s research activities, the names of current members, the program’s benefits, and the cost of participation.  The website must be operational before a new Affiliate Program can be approved.
  8.  Additional Program Funding.  Industrial Affiliate Programs may permit companies to provide additional funding above the membership fee to support an area of on-going research within the program.  The Affiliate Program website must contain a statement that companies may provide additional funding and state that all research results arising from the use of the additional funding will be shared with all program members and the general public.  The website must state that an Affiliate Program member may request the additional funding be used to support a particular area of program research identified on the program’s website, or the program research of a named faculty member, as long as the faculty is identified on the program website as participating in the Affiliate Program. In either instance, the director of the Affiliate Program will determine how the additional funding will be used in the program’s research.
  9. Website Link. The website for an Industrial Affiliate Program must also include a link to the Stanford University Policies for Industrial Affiliate Programs, or otherwise display the entire text of these policies on the site.
  10. Public Access to Research Results.  Principles of openness in research and dissemination of research results shall in no way be violated or abridged by interactions with member companies. Results of research activities in Affiliate Programs shall be made available to members and to non-members alike in an open and timely manner.  Research results may be shared on a website as long as the general public can also gain access to those results in the same manner.  Programs that provide research results to members on their websites through a password portal must provide access to the general public, as well.
  11. Visiting Scholars. Programs may allow members to send representatives to campus to collaborate on research with participating faculty as “Visiting Scholars.”  The selection procedures and criteria for the Visiting Scholar must be consistent with procedures and standards applicable to other Visiting Scholars at the University. Industrial Affiliate Program visitors  should not detract from University resources available to Stanford faculty or students.  See the Research Policy Handbook regarding Visiting Scholars on the Dean of Research website.
  12. Faculty Control. While member companies may offer suggestions for research activities, the faculty selects research topics and participants, and directs program research.
  13. Agreements. When an Industrial Affiliate Program uses formal agreements to enroll companies into the Program and collect membership fees, the agreements, including any revisions, must be approved in advance by ICO.
  14. Visits to Member Sites. Programs may offer a site visit by faculty and students as one of the membership benefits. The purpose is to give technical presentations and discuss with the company areas of mutual interest. The following conditions apply to the visit:

a) the presentation at the member’s site is the same as given to all members, and such presentations are shared with the public;

b) the research/interactions conducted at a member’s site are within the program’s stated research areas on the program’s website;

c) the information, data and results of the visit are shared with all members and the public;

d) the program’s website specifically states that “the site presentations and all information, data and results arising from such visitation interactions will be shared with all members and the public”; and,

e) No individual consulting fees are received by faculty or students for these visits.

Questions regarding the appropriateness of Stanford's interaction with a company, organization or individual should be directed to the cognizant deans and the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.

3. Procedure for Establishing an Industrial Affiliate Program

Requests to establish or to continue an Industrial Affiliate Program must be submitted using the “Request for Approval/Renewal of Affiliate Program” form to the Industrial Contracts Office, after obtaining the concurrence of the Department Chair and School Dean.  Before it can access funding from members, a new or continuing Affiliate Program must be approved by ICO to operate in the current fiscal year.  The request form must include:

  1. The name of the Affiliate Program, the faculty department(s), school(s), and the name and email address of both the faculty director and the program’s administrator.
  2. The link for the Affiliate Program’s website.
  3. The purpose of the Affiliate Program.  The program’s purpose should include a description of its research focus and goals.
  4. For continuing programs, the request form must provide the total income received by the Affiliate Program in the prior Stanford fiscal year.  If no income is reported, an explanation must be provided.
  5. The membership fee. If the Affiliate Program offers different membership tiers, the tiers and the cost for each tier should be identified.
  6. For continuing programs: A list of current members.  If this is fewer than two companies, an explanation and list of companies who have expressed an interest in joining the program is required.
  7. For new Affiliate Programs, a list of companies expressing an interest in the proposed program.
  8. Names of the faculty who participate and perform research activities under the Affiliate Program.  The faculty named must meet the Principal Investigator Eligibility Policy specified in the Research Policy Handbook on the Dean of Research website.
  9. A description of when and how research results will be made available to members and non-members. If research results are to be shared via a website, a description how members and non-members will access the research results through this website interface.
  10. Identification of participating faculty who have another relationship with a member company and a description of the relationship (advisory board member, consultant, licensing, stock ownership, etc.)  Industrial Affiliate Programs and their investigators must comply with University policies on conflicts of interest.
  11. A copy of the proposed membership agreement, if any, or a copy of the proposed invoice for companies joining the Affiliate Program.   Invoices should reference the program’s website.

Annual Review

Each program must submit an annual renewal request form to ICO by February 15 of each year in order to continue to operate as an Industrial Affiliate Program.  Affiliate Programs that do not submit the completed form by February 15 will not be permitted to deposit membership fees into the program’s account until the program’s renewal is approved by ICO.