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Start-up Companies and MURA
Start-up companies can be an effective strategy in transferring early-stage university-developed technologies out for the public benefit. There are potential benefits to forming a start-up company including accelerating the development of the technology and promoting local economic development (e.g., job creation).
The University of Southern Mississippi encourages faculty, staff, and students that have an interest in engaging in entrepreneurial activity. For those faculty, staff and students who desire to form their own companies to advance a technology that is owned by the University, a few steps must be taken in advance. The Office of Technology Development (OTD) works with those individuals who wish to form a company to advance the technologies/products they develop/discover while working at the University.
When the University engages in activities with university-employee-owned companies, a conflict of interest is inherent in these relationships. State ethics laws prohibit state employees from maintaining a material financial interest in a company that contracts or licenses technology from the University except when it is approved by the Mississippi University Research Authority (MURA, Mississippi Code §37-147-3). MURA assures that the start-up company/university relationships, that could constitute a conflict of interest under State law, are managed properly.
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Process for MURA Approval
Under MURA, University employees shall prepare and submit a letter requesting permission from the MURA Board to establish and maintain a material financial interest in a company formed to license and develop a technology they have developed. The Office of Technology Development will assist the University employee in the completion of the letter, meet with the individual to explain the process and discuss licensing opportunities of the technology from the University to the company. Key components of the MURA application letter include the following:
- A full description of the nature of the enterprise;
- The University employee’s interest in the entity;
- How the entity will benefit the economy of Mississippi;
- The University employee’s activities with the entity; and
- A statement that the company will not adversely affect the University or any substantial State interest.
IMPORTANT: Please submit the MURA application letter PRIOR TO ANY FINANCIAL TRANSACTION. Be sure you have allowed enough time for the approval process before you or the company conducts any financial transactions with the University.
The steps in the process for MURA approval are as follows:
- The applicant prepares a draft MURA application letter and sends it to the OTD for review.
- OTD meets with the applicant, reviews the letter and assists the applicant to prepare a final version of the MURA application letter.
- OTD will circulate the MURA application letter to the Department Chair or Director, Dean, Vice President for Research, and President for signature.
- After the President signs the MURA application letter, it is returned to the Vice President for Research, who forwards the letter to the MURA Board for consideration.
- After the review is completed by the MURA Board, the Vice President for Research will inform the applicant and OTD whether the application was approved or denied.
- If the MURA application is approved, annual reports are required to the MURA Board regarding the status of the company, its operations and any material changes. The University employee will be contacted in May of each year by the OTD staff to provide details relevant to this report.
Facilities and Equipment Guidelines
Guidelines for the use of University of Southern Mississippi research facilities and equipment by private companies
- Leases for the use of USM’s facilities, whether for exclusive or non-exclusive use, shall use USM’s standard lease agreement as provided by USM’s Office of General Counsel.
- Leases/contracts for the use of leased facilities, space, and equipment to private companies must be approved by the Vice President of Research.
- Leases for use of facilities by private companies require approval from the Board or Commissioner for the Institutions of Higher Learning which will be requested by the Vice President for Research.
- Companies shall be required to provide liability insurance for the leased facilities, space, and, if applicable, University-owned equipment.
- The company shall indemnify and hold USM harmless for any liability to Company under or in connection with the lease/contract.
- Since state law does not allow the use of state resources for private companies without reasonable compensation, lease/contract rates from using USM facilities/equipment shall be based on the University’s lease rates at the time of execution of the lease/contract.