Best Practices for Faculty Start-Ups


Stanford is committed to avoiding either perceived or actual conflict of interest issues with respect to faculty start-ups. Both Stanford and faculty have responsibilities to optimize technology transfer and mitigate COI whenever licensing Stanford intellectual property to a faculty start-up is considered.

University/Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) Responsibilities

Make licensing decisions based on OTL’s professional judgment about technology transfer to achieve the best possible benefit to the public, without undue influence from internal or external parties. View the OTL Inventors Guide.

To determine the most effective way to transfer the technology:

  • OTL “markets” all Stanford technology to ensure fair and open access to potential licensees:

    • Faculty start-ups should not receive or be perceived as receiving preferential treatment.

  • Stanford faculty/employees are not allowed to represent the potential licensee and must not negotiate directly with OTL.

  • The faculty’s School Dean and the Dean of Research must review any actions that present a potential conflict of interest:

    • If OTL, after thorough marketing, determines that a faculty-affiliated company is the appropriate licensee, OTL documents its marketing and rationale for its licensing decision.

    • The faculty must disclose to the Deans any interest (consulting fees and/or options) in the start-up.

    • The faculty must agree to separate University responsibilities from company responsibilities according to the criteria listed under Faculty Responsibilities, below.

    • If the conflict is deemed manageable by the Deans based on this agreement with the involved faculty, OTL may proceed with the licensing.

  • OTL licensing agreements may be exclusive or non-exclusive depending on what is most suitable for achieving technology transfer.

Faculty Responsibilities

Separate University duties for research and education from personal financial interests in the company.

Faculty must:

  • Separate and clearly distinguish on-going University research from work being conducted at the company.

  • Limit consulting for the company to a maximum of 13 days a quarter, per University policy.

  • Serve only in advisory or consultative roles at the company:

    • Do not take managerial roles or titles (i.e CTO) suggesting management responsibility.

    • Take a leave of absence from Stanford if engaging in a management role.

Faculty must not:

  • Negotiate with the University on behalf of the company.

  • Receive gifts or sponsored research from the company.

  • Involve research staff or other University staff in activities at the company;

    • Company personnel cannot be affiliated with the University.

  • Involve company personnel in Stanford research.

  • Involve current students in company activities:

    • If a student asks to take a leave of absence to participate in the company, refer the student to the School Dean for review of the request and independent advice.

  • Involve junior faculty in company activities for whom you have supervisory responsibility:

    • Even if no supervisory role, avoid situations in which junior faculty might feel expected to be involved.

  • Use University facilities for company purposes.

  • Undertake human subjects research at the University as PI/protocol director.

  • Supervise faculty who are PI/protocol directors for human subjects research related to the company.