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Legal, financial & compliance concerns

International projects bring multiple financial and legal considerations, which often vary by country. Here are some important questions that Principal Investigators and administrators should consider in their planning.

What financial and legal issues need to be considered?

  • MIT’s legal and tax specialists from the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and the Office of the Vice President for Finance (VPF) will review the specifics of your project and determine what laws or tax codes apply for that type of sponsor or that particular country. In some cases, MIT may hire an outside expert for further assistance.

How do you determine your budget?

  • It is important to understand the full financial picture of a project — the funds needed both to support the activity and to assure that MIT is kept whole.
  • PIs often find that they are asked to put a dollar value on a project before it is well defined and costs fully understood. A best practice (especially but not exclusively for major international engagements) is to build in a project definition period of six months or so for both MIT and the sponsor to assess priorities, feasibility, and costs.
  • Additional taxes or legal fees must be considered along with the overhead rate for non-research activities, contributions to the endowment, and other potential MIT internal costs specific to each project.

Is your project affected by export control?

  • Export controls are federal regulations that restrict access to and the flow of certain materials, devices, data, and technical information to entities outside the U.S. and to foreign nationals inside the U.S.; export control issues may also affect international travel. MIT complies fully with all U.S. export control laws and regulations — noncompliance can have serious consequences on an individual and institutional level.
  • Any project with international components should be reviewed by MIT’s Export Control Officer. If you have questions or would like to request a review, please contact the Export Control Office.

What intellectual property (IP) rights is a sponsor expecting?

  • Is MIT-owned IP or sponsor IP going to be used in the project?
  • What kind of intellectual property might be created (software, patentable IP, etc.) in the project?
  • What intellectual property rights will the sponsor expect?
  • Are sponsor personnel anticipated to be on campus to collaborate on the project?

Have you connected with the appropriate people at MIT?

International engagements benefit from input from administrators in multiple offices to negotiate and implement an agreement. They also need to be approved by the appropriate dean or department head, and large and/or complex agreements may need to be reviewed by the International Advisory Committee (IAC).

When can collaborators announce the project?

MIT is very careful about the appropriate public use of its name by others, and prior approval for any use of name should be sought from the use of name officer in the Technology Licensing Office. Detailed policies are in place in this regard. In general, announcements about any project take place only after an agreement is in place and the text must be vetted in advance by MIT.

What about an MOU?

International collaborators often ask MIT or Principal Investigators to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to memorialize discussions about a potential collaboration. MIT generally doesn’t negotiate or sign MOUs or other documents that simply state that discussions are taking place, preferring to work on and document the actual scope and terms of projects.