The Texas A&M AgriLife Contract Office (“Contract Office”) assists faculty and professional research staff in their efforts to secure external funding for “Industry” contracts which are projects sponsored by for-profit private entities and commodity sponsors (Who are Commodity Sponsors?). This is accomplished by assisting research faculty and staff with Industry proposal review and submission and contract negotiations.
Each sponsored project begins with a proposal. Most Industry proposals are handled at the Contract Office. If the proposal submission is competitive (e.g., in response to a Request for Proposal, aka “RFP”) then Texas A&M Sponsored Research Services (“SRS ”) will be your primary point of contact for Industry proposals, all other proposals are managed by the Contract Office. If you ever have a question on where you should start, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org; this is our general inbox and is checked throughout the day by multiple personnel.
Once a proposal is routed through internal review and approved, a Contract Negotiator (“CN”) is provided the file to begin review and contact the Industry sponsor regarding the agreement. Once an agreement is finalized, the file is transferred to SRS for project and account set up.
A proposal starts with the AG 120 Pertinent Information Form. Aptly named, this form provides the Contract Office with the pertinent information needed to initiate the proposal process and provides Contract Negotiators (CNs) the information required to initiate and review contracts. The lead faculty and professional research staff for the project, the Principal Investigator (“PI”), will work with the Contract Office Proposal Administrator to provide proposal documentation. Non-competitive industry proposals should only be routed in Maestro if the sponsor has confirmed the statement of work and budget with the PI. Maestro is the web browser-based application designed to support researchers and research administration across the Texas A&M University System (AgriLife Maestro Support).
The following items are addressed in the proposal:
The legal entity name of the company you are working with must be confirmed before submission. As multiple entities have changed names over time or through mergers and acquisitions it is imperative we have the correct legal entity name at the time of proposal in case a sponsor needs to be added to the Maestro system. Please work with your Industry sponsor contact to confirm the name of the entity that will be on the contract. If there are multiple parties involved (e.g., one party is the primary technical point of contact and another is providing payment) in addition to AgriLife, these parties (and their roles) must be identified upfront.
New Sponsors – If you are working with an Industry collaborator not in the Maestro system, we will provide you with the New Sponsor Form to obtain the required information from the sponsor so they can be added into the Maestro system. The New Sponsor Form, when completed, should be submitted to email@example.com.
All sponsored agreements are written in support of a project. The project scope of work should only address those activities to be conducted for and funded by the sponsor. All SOWs must address the who, what, when, where, how, why, and deliverables of the activities anticipated. It is critical to have detailed information on the statement of work and deliverables as the expectations between the parties must be clear to aid in avoiding disputes.
Any Statement of Work, if submitted in PDF format, should also be provided in Word to enable the SOW to be incorporated into the agreements.
The Contract Office will assist with the drafting and review of budgets related to Industry sponsored projects. Budgets created by the PI should be sent to the Contracts Office for review and approval prior to being provided to the sponsor for consideration. If there are any questions on budget items such as salary, graduate student tuition, or indirect costs, please refer all questions to our Contract Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is expected that AgriLife’s full facilities and administrative costs (“F&A”), also known as the indirect costs (“IDC”), are reflected in the budget.
There are multiple sponsors who request land use agreements if non-Texas A&M University System (“non-System”) property is used. Before any proposal will be routed for approval, the Contract Office must be notified if non-System property is to be used. While each agreement is different, there are certain sponsors who require the use of third-party land use agreements if work is done on non-System property. This is addressed in the Pertinent Information Form.
If there are additional Texas A&M University System (“System”) personnel working on the project, and they have PI eligibility based on their job title, they must be included on the personnel list on the Pertinent Information Form AG-120. If you are unsure System personnel have a PI eligible title, please confirm with the Contract Office. This allows our office to confirm whether or not the identified personnel have financial conflict of interest statements on file with the System and confirm any compliance questions regarding conflicts of interest or nepotism that may need to be monitored by the Texas A&M AgriLife Ethics and Compliance Office (AgriLife Compliance Office). If any non-System collaborators are part of the sponsored project, they must also be identified to determine if a subrecipient agreement, Non-Disclosure Agreement, etc. is needed for their involvement in the project.
Please note that proposals done in response to RFP’s may have different or more specific requirements for proposal contents and format.
The Contract Office will gather all information provided and develop a Maestro proposal. The proposal will be routed for approval in Maestro via the routing path once the lead PI has confirmed the Compliance and Reporting Codes sections. During routing the PI and any Co-PIs will review and confirm the information in the proposal.
Faculty are responsible for checking the relevant compliance items relating to the technical aspects of the projects (e.g., animals, transgenics), or if they know their sponsor is a foreign entity, etc. If there are terms and conditions when negotiating a contract that result in changes to the compliance section (e.g., DFARS 252.204-7012, Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incidence Reporting, incorporated into the contract), the CN will make the change; a notification is sent by Maestro to the PI signaling the change and requires PI certification. The Contract Office is not responsible for verifying the technical aspects of the Compliance section in the proposal or the PI Compliance Statement in the project are accurate.
If there is a question on applicability of a compliance item, the AgriLife Compliance Office will assist faculty. Please keep the Contract Office informed of any changes to an Industry sponsored proposal or project.
PIs will receive a notification in Maestro requesting they log in and complete the reporting codes for a new proposal. These are typically completed by the Contract Office Proposal Administrator at proposal setup. If you have any questions about completion or modification of the reporting codes, please email our office at email@example.com.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Contract Office (“Contract Office”) assists faculty and professional research staff in their efforts to secure external funding for “Industry” contracts which are projects sponsored by for-profit private entities and commodity sponsors. This is accomplished by assisting research faculty and staff with Industry proposal review and submission and contract negotiations. The authority to negotiate Industry-sponsored agreements, legally binding documents between an Industry sponsor and AgriLife, has been delegated to the Contract Office.
Each sponsored project begins with a proposal. Once the proposal is completed and approved in Maestro there are two main ways a proposal goes to the contract stage: (1) the Industry proposal was non-competitive and the sponsor is ready to immediately begin working on a contract for the project, or (2) the Industry proposal was competitive (competitive proposals are handled at Sponsored Research Services (“SRS”)) and the Contract Office has been provided the formal notification that the project will be funded by the sponsor.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory fall under the AgriLife umbrella; all three are public agencies of the state of Texas and are bound by certain policies and regulations regarding what they can and cannot accept in sponsored contracts. These policies are designed to foster the fundamental aspects of each agency’s mission including the dissemination of research and information to the people of the state of Texas, ensuring the academic freedom of our faculty. As Industry sponsors are motivated by different forces, there is sometimes a disconnect between the position of Industry and the agencies our office supports. Consequently, negotiations can take additional time to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement.
While some Industry sponsors require their agreements as a starting point, the Contract Office agreements should be used as often as possible in negotiations; the Contract Office agreements are tailored to agencies of the state of Texas and address key concepts required by state and federal law as well as System and AgriLife policy. When an Industry sponsor requires their ‘paper’ as a starting point, it can lead to protracted negotiations. Contract negotiations with Industry sponsors can be difficult and complex; primary areas of negotiation focus on publication review rights and timeframes, intellectual property, and confidentiality.
A Contract Negotiator (“CN”) conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the file documentation, drafts agreements, and reviews incoming contracts. The Contract Office works in conjunction with multiple offices including The Texas A&M University System Office of General Counsel, The Texas A&M Technology Commercialization Office, Texas A&M AgriLife Ethics and Compliance Office, and other offices as needed.
If there are substantive changes from discussions between the Principal Investigator (“PI “) and the sponsor (e.g., deciding not to pursue the sponsored project, additional statement of work activities, or budget modifications), the CN must be notified. Contracts need to clearly lay out the expectations of the parties, as they are what both parties rely on in the event of dispute; this is primarily done through detailed statements of work and clearly defined deliverables.
In addition to entering into agreements abiding the requisite laws and policies, the goal of the Contract Office is to arrive at an agreement mutually acceptable to the PI, AgriLife, and the sponsor. AgriLife values its relationships with Industry and the opportunities it provides to aid in the proliferation and advancement of research.
Once an agreement is finalized, the file is transferred to Texas A&M Sponsored Research Services for project and account set up.
Fixed Price or Cost Reimbursable?
Below are general descriptions of both types of funding arrangements. As requested, the Contract Office will discuss these two types of funding with you and how they relate to your project. The Contract Office encourages cost-reimbursable funding arrangements with Industry sponsors and will draft contracts initiated by the Contract Office with a cost-reimbursable structure.
Fixed Price – The sponsor will pay the cost outlined in the sponsored research agreement, an agreed amount for the deliverables, irrespective of the costs incurred by the researcher. Fixed-price agreements are appropriate when there is a very detailed scope of work, the outcome is relatively certain, the costs are well known, and deliverables are well-articulated. These types of payments may also be referred to as “deliverables-based” or “lump-sum” contracts. The frequency of invoicing is based on the terms of the agreement, and upfront payments are required.
Cost Reimbursable – Cost-reimbursable agreements are appropriate for basic research where the outcome is not known, and the researcher’s goal is to discover an answer to a proposed question – whether or not in the sponsor’s favor; this is especially true when intellectual property development is anticipated, as one cannot be certain that there will be a particular result. Cost-reimbursable contracts are appropriate when the work being performed cannot be precisely defined or the cost precisely estimated. Cost-reimbursable agreements do not require bearing as much of a risk; performance of the project continues until funds or the period of performance is exhausted. The frequency of invoicing is based on the terms of the agreement.
To confirm the expectations of the parties are clear, it is necessary, no matter the type of agreement, to have well-articulated deliverables. The Contract Office encourages all PIs to not only identify the deliverables [e.g., a Final Report due thirty (30) days after the End Date], but what the deliverable itself will entail [e.g., A Final Report is due thirty (30) days after the End Date. The Final Report will include a summary of the work completed, description of the materials and methods used, and statistical analysis using the “x” method.”].
Sponsored agreements, whether for substantive research projects or testing, typically include (but are not limited to) terms governing the following:
- Payment obligations and timing
- Publication of the project results
- Intellectual property
- Confidential information
- Publicity/use of name
- Terms addressing governing law, dispute resolution, and other items necessary for contracts
All Industry contracts must be signed by an authorized signatory; PI’s do not have authority to sign agreements. Industry sponsored agreements are signed by the Director of the relevant agency or their designee. The PI assumes responsibly for the financial oversight and completion of the work.
What happens if things change?
During a project, if there are substantive changes to a statement of work, the Contract Office should be notified. Changes to a project not documented in a contract amendment lead to issues down the line. The document that governs disputes, large or small, is the sponsored research agreement. It should remain up to date and mirror the sponsored project activity.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Contract Office (“Contract Office”) assists faculty and professional research staff in their efforts to secure external funding for “Industry” contracts which are projects sponsored by for-profit private entities and commodity sponsors. This is accomplished by assisting research faculty and staff with Industry proposal review and submission and contract negotiations.
Once an Industry sponsored agreement is signed by the sponsor and AgriLife, the file is released to Sponsored Research Services (“SRS ”) for financial account set-up and project management. Your SRS Project Administrator will be your primary point of contact to assist in the management of your Industry award.
SRS and the Contract Office work together in the event there are changes in circumstances regarding a Industry sponsored project. In the event of a project extension (aka: a no-cost extension), SRS will work with the sponsor to obtain the documentation required to extend the project. For any project changes requiring a substantive update to the terms and conditions such as funding increases or reductions, or statement of work changes, the Contract Office will work with the Industry sponsor on a contract amendment so the written agreement represents the current understanding of the sponsor and AgriLife. The Contract Office manages all amendments to master Industry sponsored agreements.
If you ever have a question on who you should contact, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org; this is our general inbox and is checked throughout the day by multiple personnel.