Research Administration Guidelines

RAG05 Establishing Research Institutes, Consortia, and Centers

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Ruth Weber, 814-867-1463,

Policy Steward: 

Senior Vice President for Research and Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance



This guideline is designed to provide guidance to University personnel in the creation of Research Institutes, Consortia and Centers, as well as the establishment of an Industry Membership Program.


Research Institutes should be viewed as the largest of entities with more resources invested in the activities than Consortia or Centers. The activities should be extensive in scale.

Research Consortia should be collectives of two or more (probably more) entities which could include internal units, e.g., colleges and external units, company members, etc. These activities should be extensive in scale and scope.

Research Centers should:

  1. have an identifiable focus
  2. have on-going funding
  3. have funding including multiple grants and contracts; not a single grant
  4. engage multiple faculty (more than 2) and graduate students (optimal but not a requirement)
  5. have some clearly identified rationale for being established

Industry Membership Program provides for industry members to support a program of research in a general field of study.  Membership does not provide any claim to intellectual properties resulting from the research.


Establishing Research Institutes, Consortia, and Centers:

Special consideration will be given to the formation of entities if a funding agency mandates a particular title, e.g., a Center Grant from the NSF or if a development opportunity evolves around formation of an entity and the donor wishes a particular designation for the entity, e.g., XX (donor's name) Institute for Y activity.

All newly formed entities should have a provision in their charter for a review to be conducted no less often than once every five years. Guidelines should define the conditions necessary for continuation of these entities.

Establishing an Industry Membership Program:

Penn State’s industry membership program is designed to provide for fundamental research, enhance the flow of information between the University and the industry members, provide the members with access to students as potential future employees, keep members informed of promising technology developments, and provide other potential benefits as a result of ongoing contact between creative individuals. The program objectives and descriptions are detailed in membership agreements that govern the membership program.  Because the nature of these programs offers the potential for diversion of academic objectives, it is important that membership-supported research programs be organized and maintained in ways that preserve both the independence and integrity of the University.

Principles That Apply to All Industry Membership Programs:

  • Support research in general areas that are of interest to multiple industry organizations;
  • Provide opportunity for interaction between industry members, faculty members, and students;
  • Promote access to research results in a timely manner;
  • Enrich students’ and postdocs’ educational experience;
  • Maintain the University’s role as a credible and impartial resource; and
  • Contribute to the University’s primary mission of teaching and research.

All Industry Membership Programs Shall Abide by the Following Guidelines:

  1. Industry Membership Programs shall be subject to the unrestricted grant facilities and administrative rate of 15% of the total award amount. (Note: Certain Federal agencies may impose additional limitations on F&A recovery, e.g., NSF I/UCRCs).
  2. Access to membership in Industry Membership Programs should be available equally to all companies prepared to meet the obligations of membership as set forth by each program.  Membership agreement and benefits shall be reasonable and consistent with the goals of each program and these Guidelines.
  3. Industry Membership Programs can offer facilitated access to Penn State’s research programs and to relevant faculty members and students. Non-member companies must not be excluded from access to such resources, but their access may sometimes be in a less convenient form.
  4. Members may gain early access to the results of research activities funded by membership fees through their interactions with faculty members and students and their participation in the research and program activities.  Research results will be published on a timely basis to preserve openness in research and dissemination of research results.
  5. University intellectual property generated under research sponsored by membership fees may be offered to members under terms consistent with University policy.  Access to University background intellectual property may be available for research and commercialization activities under the Industry Membership Program on a case-by-case basis, and subject to any preexisting rights to such technology.
  6. Industry Membership Programs should not be used to perform sponsored research to provide unique or preferential benefits to individual members.  Separate sponsored research agreements shall be used to perform research with specific costs, schedules, and/or deliverables that benefit individual member(s) rather than all members.
  7. While members may offer suggestions for research activities, the involved faculty member must be free to select research topics, adopt research methodology, select participants, and direct research funded by the programs.


Approval Process for Establishing New Research Institutes, Consortia, and Centers:

All newly formed Research Institutes, Consortia, and Centers should be established with the approval of the Senior Vice President for Research.  Approvals will be forwarded from the Senior Vice President for Research to the Executive Vice President and Provost.

Approval Process for Establishing an Industry Membership Program:

Requests to establish an Industry Membership Program should be directed in writing to the Senior Vice President for Research, with the concurrence of the Department Chair/Director and/or Dean. The request should include the following:

  1. Name of the individual who will coordinate the program.
  2. Brief description of the proposed program.
  3. Specific benefits to be offered to members.
  4. Anticipated number of faculty and graduate students who will participate.
  5. Draft of the proposed membership agreement(s).
  6. Anticipated number of members by category.
  7. Person responsible for invoicing and collecting membership fees.

The Office of the Senior Vice President for Research will retain a listing of all approved Industry Membership Programs. Additional information, specific to the Membership Program Agreement template, is available at the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research website.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research or the Office of Budget and Finance.

Revision History:

  • July 10, 2023 - Updated Corporate Controller to Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance or Office of Budget and Finance. 
  • February 13, 2020 - Updated title of Senior Vice President for Research
  • April 13, 2018 - Clarification added regarding Federally imposed F&A restrictions
  • February 26, 2016 - This policy was previously a Research Administration policy, RAG18. It has been renumbered to reflect reorganization.
  • June 26, 2012 - Editorial change to last paragraph in "Approval Process for Establishing an Industry Membership Program" section, adding an "additional information" statement regarding Membership Programs.
  • December 21, 2010 - Editorial change to #1 in "All Industry Membership Programs Shall Abide by the following Guidelines" section. Clarification of the 15% unrestricted grant facilities and administrative rate charge (applied to the total award amount).
  • December 3, 2010 - Incorporation of Industry Membership Programs – guidelines and principles.
  • January 1, 2010 - Editorial changes. Title changed FROM "Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School" TO "Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School," to reflect position changes, effective January 1, 2010.
  • September 2, 2008 - Clarified the approval process.
  • July 10, 2007 - New Guideline

Date Approved: 

February 22, 2016

Date Published: 

February 13, 2020

Effective Date: 

July 1, 2023