Benchmarking research contracts management practices in 30 UK and Australian universities




30 universities from the UK and Australia

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Benchmarking the performance of research contracts management practices in 30 UK and Australian universities.

Research contract management is a critical function for all research-active universities. The volume and complexity of research contracts is rapidly increasing. At the same time, research funders, external partners and businesses are seeking greater value from their university relationships. This has meant that research contracts teams in universities have found themselves under growing pressure to manage additional demand.

In 2018, Research Consulting undertook a benchmarking exercise of research contract management in 19 UK and 11 Australian universities. The study looked at key areas of research contract management, including research income, contract volumes, the staff and system resources in place and the costs, structures, and remits of the research contracts functions in the participating universities.

The key findings from this work reflect the wide range of institutions who participated. Size mattered regarding research contracts functions – in both structure and governance, with results being broadly similar for both the UK and Australia and typically costing less that 1% of research income. A range of staff roles are utilised within these functions with a greater density of legally qualified staff in those universities with a larger researcher income. Contributors reported a growing complexity across all types of agreement, such as international or multi-partner collaboration and negotiating expectations, as well as systems limiting the reporting of metrics for management.

International distinctions between the UK and Australia became apparent. Notable contrasts included differences between how UK and Australian institutions approach their process to sign off agreements. On average, preparing a contract is more expensive in Australia, where we also see salaries appearing materially higher than their UK counterparts. Different approaches to governing law on international agreements was apparent with Australia’s usage of software management and their strong growth in contract numbers. Overall, we concluded that the scale of research income makes a clear difference.

Further Reading

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