Conflicts of Interest

Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation support and encourage faculty/researchers and students who want to be entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial activities may result in real or apparent financial conflicts of interest when individuals with outside financial interests are in a position to influence the university’s business, research (including the design, conduct and reporting of research), or procurement decisions in ways that could directly or indirectly lead to financial gain for the employee or the employee’s dependents. 

Conflicts of interest for Purdue employees, whether real or perceived, must be disclosed and managed in accordance with Purdue’s policy on Individual Financial Conflicts of Interest (III.B.2). For faculty/researcher/student entrepreneurs, the bias resulting from such conflicts may conceivably affect research activities such as the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the hiring of staff, procurement of materials, sharing of results, choice of research protocol, involvement of human subjects, use of statistical methods, and the use of university facilities, personnel, equipment, IT Resources, confidential and proprietary information and other resources.

Disclosure and transparency are crucial to successful management of conflicts of interest. For example, if a Purdue faculty or researcher is named as an inventor/innovator of a Purdue technology that is the subject of a patent application filed by and at the expense of OTC and the Purdue employee/innovator decides to start a company to realize commercial aspirations for the Purdue invention, what is the next step?

The researcher should engage the department head or unit head and discuss implications on teaching, student research, obligations to current research sponsors and impact on future obligations, balance of commitment level(s) – whether a leave of absence is appropriate – use of Purdue equipment and facilities, and other matters relevant to appropriate management of time commitment to outside activities, and real or apparent financial conflicts of interest related to research and university procurement of goods and services. Resources are available to help inform this discussion:

  • Questions about reportable outside activities can be directed to the Vice President for Ethics and Compliance (vpec@purdue.edu). The reportable outside activities form must be completed annually by the Purdue employee and approved by the employee’s unit head and the Outside Activities Officer. The Reportable Outside Activities form can be accessed online.
  • Questions about a leave of absence should be discussed with your department/unit head. The request for leave of absence form can be found online.
  • Questions about the implications on research awards, current and pending, should be discussed with the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships (please e-mail your question to fcoi@purdue.edu or call 765-494-6840). Research-related disclosures of significant financial interests in a sponsored research project should be made online. A table summarizing research related financial conflict of interest documents (forms, disclosures, management plans) and software/online applications can be found online. The table lists documents and explains who needs to file the forms, when to file the forms, what specifically is approved or disclosed, and where to find each form (with hyperlinks to forms). 
  • Questions about use of Purdue equipment and facilities for a commercial endeavor such as a startup can be directed to Sponsored Program Services, which includes cross-functional teams from the Office of Sponsored Research and Office of Business Services to assist with proposals, award management, contract negotiation, data access and support services, research administration, regulatory compliance, and agricultural and international programs. 

As a general rule, Purdue resources, including equipment and facilities, used for purposes other than teaching or academic research must be paid for by the user. In this instance, the Purdue inventor/employee using such resources for the startup’s purposes must compensate Purdue at fair market rates. Use of Purdue-licensed software must be approved in advance of any use by the startup. A guide to policies and procedures is available online

These resources are available to Purdue graduate students and post-doctoral trainees having an interest in founding a startup. Students and post-doctoral researchers should discuss with their research advisor many of the same matters to ensure that compliance with Purdue policies, contract obligations, mission objectives and the research objectives are maintained and actively managed.

 

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