Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs occasionally include complicated financial conflicts of interest. To assist faculty, researchers, and administrators in determining appropriate participation in these programs, the following guidelines have been developed.
To support research and development activities of small businesses, federal funding agencies have developed special programs that encourage small businesses to partner with a university to perform research and/or assist in technology transfer. In these programs, Missouri State University must participate as a subcontractor and appropriate terms and conditions must be negotiated through the Office of Sponsored Research & Programs.
The increase in SBIR/STTR programs has produced a variety of complex situations with regard to financial conflict of interest issues. For example, it is not uncommon for a faculty member to have a personal business relationship with the small business entity as founder, scientific advisor, shareholder, officer, etc. Such a situation generates concerns about whether the purpose of the sponsored agreement is to perform the company's immediate business activities.
Although the current regulations for these programs do not prohibit faculty from being both a principal in the company and the principal investigator for the campus subcontract, Missouri state law and University policies restrict such a relationship. Missouri State University, therefore, is required to follow the stricter guidelines.
To address these and other issues surrounding SBIR and STTR funding to assist faculty who are interested in applying for grants, Missouri State has provided the following guidelines:
- The principal investigator for the small business SBIR/STTR application and the principal investigator for the subcontract to Missouri State University must be different individuals.
- The business and scientific management officials (CEO, CFO, VP for Science, Chief Technical Advisor, Chief Scientific Officer, etc.) for the business entity may not also be Missouri State University employees. This includes faculty, postdoctorals, students, technical assistants, etc.
- If a Missouri State faculty member (and/or spouse or dependent children) has ownership in a small business, that same individual may not bring research into his/her own laboratory through a SBIR or STTR subcontract involving the same business.
- The small business entity's scope of work must represent a significant portion (over half) of the research and/or development activities for the entire award.
- The small business must have evidence of functioning space in which research and/or development activities can and will take place. The campus must not be the location for the immediate research and development activities of the business.
- The principal investigator for the campus portion of the work must submit the entire proposal (Missouri State's portion and small business's portion) to the Office of Sponsored Research & Programs to enable the appropriate reviews to take place before submission of the proposal to the funding agency.
- There must be a clear distinction between the work done by the small business and the world performed on campus. All work done using campus facilities, employees, and/or students must be appropriate research under Missouri State University policies.
- Under the University's conflict of interest regulations, Missouri State faculty may serve as consultants to companies, but are discouraged from being an employee of a company. No SBIR or STTR subcontract will be accepted for anyone who is also an employee of the small business unless approval has been obtained from the President, Vice President for Research and Economic Development, or their designee.