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Faculty in the College of Engineering and Applied Science frequently work on research and development projects in collaboration with industry ranging from large corporations to small start-up companies. Below is a guide to the ways these entities can engage with faculty and students.

If you have any further questions or need additional information after reviewing this guide, contact Bill Doe, Coordinator for Research Opportunities.

If your company has questions with regard to how intellectual property is managed by the University of Colorado, please read this IP FAQ document. Additional questions may be addressed to the University of Colorado's Technology Transfer Office.

Sponsored Research

Sponsored research projects encompass externally funded activities. They require a formal written agreement (grant, contract, or cooperative agreement) between the University of Colorado Boulder and the sponsor (usually a company, government agency, or a foundation). A sponsored project is considered a transaction, thus there is a specific statement of work, a project schedule, project deliverables, and a line item budget detailing the sponsor's financial support of the project. A sponsored project budget will include the university's full negotiated facilities and administrative (indirect) cost rate (currently 52.5 percent), unless a waiver or reduction of those costs has been approved by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (e.g., some educational grants, grants where the research is performed off-site, and some research sponsored by charitable foundations).

Sponsored project research is carried out by a combination of faculty and their research assistants (graduate students, post-doctoral associates, and professional research assistants). As a rough estimate, budgets for these projects are approximately $50,000 to $120,000 per year, per research assistant involved in the project. Projects usually run from 1 to 5 years in length. A one to two year project will usually involve a master's student, while a project running for more than 2 years usually involves a PhD student or post-doctoral research associate.

Sponsored project agreements also typically include terms and conditions for tangible properties generated by the research (e. g., equipment, records, specified technical reports, theses or dissertations). In some cases, research conducted in the university's labs involves the development of intangible properties such as intellectual property (IP) of interest to a private company sponsoring the research. According to U.S. federal laws, public universities have an obligation to retain intellectual property rights to ensure that researchers enjoy the freedom to pursue their area of research. Universities are able to grant sponsors generous rights to the intellectual property through option and license agreements. Further information on IP can be found in CU-Boulder's IP FAQ document and from discussions with CU-Boulder's Technology Transfer Office, which manages IP for the entire University of Colorado system.

Charitable Gifts to Support Research and Graduate Student Education

Some companies are interested in the general advancement of research in their technology areas. As such, they may choose to support a College of Engineering and Applied Science faculty member's research in those areas via a charitable gift. According to tax laws and regulations governing gifts, a gift is defined as any item of value (funds, equipment, etc.) given by a donor who expects nothing of value in return. Donors are allowed to designate the support for specific purpose but there are no contractual obligations that the university must fulfill. Donors are allowed to receive recognition for their donation and receive periodic progress and summary reports on the expenditures. Any gift amount is greatly appreciated by the university, its faculty, and its students.

Many companies fund gifts for graduate fellowships as a way to support graduate student education and training. This education and training develops a student's skill and expertise, allowing them to excel in their work for industry. These fellowship gifts can be part of a company's employment recruiting and work-force development strategies, though support of a student is in no way binding for the student or the company.

Corporate gifts to College of Engineering and Applied Science faculty and students are managed by Melinda Seevers, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, in the Engineering Development Office, which is part of the CU Foundation.

Faculty Professional Consulting

CU-Boulder faculty members are allowed to provide professional consultation services for up to one-sixth of their time and energy. Consulting fees range from $80/hour (for some government agencies) to $300/hour and are determined by individual faculty members. In general, consulting does not include use of CU-Boulder facilities unless the university is compensated for their use. Students cannot assist faculty with consulting projects.

User Facilities

There are several user facilities in the College of Engineering and Applied Science that are available to companies and individuals under a fee-for-service or a fee-for-use agreement. These include:

  • The Nanomaterials Characterization Facility (NCF)
  • The Colorado Nanofabrication Lab (CNL)
  • The Fast Hybrid Test Laboratory (FHT)
  • The Comprehensive Antenna Testing Chamber

> More information about these user facilities

Student Design Projects

All undergraduate engineering degree programs require students to complete a capstone design experience in order to meet Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) criteria. This is typically accomplished through a one or two semester engineering design course sequence. Some degree programs solicit ideas from industry; however any project undertaken in these design classes must meet the ABET requirements as judged by the faculty member responsible for the class. The Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering Sciences also offer a graduate-level design course based on industrially sponsored projects.

Because of the hands-on nature of some industrially inspired projects, companies may be asked to provide a sponsor fee.  To ensure that the project is relevant to the company, they may also be asked to provide company contacts which students can engage. Here is a listing of how each department or degree program operates their design course sequence:

  • Aerospace Engineering SciencesOur Senior Design Project course provides a capstone experience, integrating the disciplinary knowledge from previous courses to conduct a realistic engineering design/build/test project to satisfy a well-defined customer need. The course teaches system engineering and project management methods by first-hand experience carrying out a real-world project with challenging performance objectives under firm time and budget limitations.  Industry-sponsored aerospace projects are highly sought by the students and can be accommodated according to a fee-based system. Contact Professor James Nabity for more details on the range of fees and the suitability of your project idea for aerospace engineering students. 
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering: Chemical and biological engineering students typically work on industrial process design projects. Industrial projects are encouraged, and while there is no sponsor fee, a technical point of contact in the company must be provided. The student work involves study, calculations, and simulations, rather than experimental work or prototype testing. Contact Professor Alan Weimer for more information or to determine if an industrial project is suitable for these students.
  • Civil Engineering: The civil engineering degree program encourages well-scoped industrial design projects. Contact senior design instructors, Matt Morris (Civil Engineering) or Sandra Vasconez (Architectural Engineering).
  • Environmental Engineering: Environmental engineering students work on a variety of design projects is the areas of water quality and treatment, air quality and treatment, hazardous waste remediation, applied ecology, and energy. The one-semester course is taught every spring semester, and while there is no sponsor fee, a technical point of contact in the company must be provided. The student work involves study, calculations, simulations, and preliminary design, rather than experimental work or prototype testing. Contact or for more information or to determine if your project is suitable for these students.
  • Computer Science: Computer science students take a two semester sequence in which teams of students complete a substantial "real world" project provided by sponsors drawn from both industry and research organizations. These projects are developed under the direction of the course instructor and members of the sponsoring organization. Contact the senior project director for more information.
  • Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering: Students in the senior design course form teams of four to six members and follow an industrial-type process during the fall and spring semesters while proposing, designing, building, and documenting their projects. See for more information, or contact Andrew Femrite.
  • Mechanical Engineering: Design Center (DC) Colorado is an industry-education partnership within the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. DC Colorado is a new concept in engineering education, fostering innovative, technical collaborations with business, industry, and government agencies. The Center brings real industry projects to undergraduate and graduate students in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, where integrated teams of 4 to 6 undergraduate students (3 to 4 students in Graduate Program), a faculty advisor, and an industry mentor develop workable solutions. Design projects are funded by industry sponsors who pay a fee of $16K for undergraduate and $20K for graduate projects. The project fee supports the Drop-In Design Laboratory, the Chevron Senior Design Studio, and the Idea Forge Machine & Welding Shop, where mechanical engineering students learn to design and build their projects.Sponsors are asked to provide a mentor who can commit approximately 10 hours to support the student team. For more details and contact information see the Design Center Colorado website.


Freshman Engineering Design Projects

The First-Year Engineering Projects course (GEEN 1400) is an interdisciplinary hands-on design/build/test course for entry-level engineering students. Through this course, students put engineering theory into practice early in their undergraduate years by working in teams to design, build, and test new products and inventions. More information is available at the First-Year Engineering Projects website.

Independent Study

In some instances, a faculty member may take interest in an industrially relevant project with a defined scope and offer to supervise students interested in the project via an independent study course. This is completely dependent on faculty interest and their ability to recruit students for the project. The best of determining if a project is appropriate and which faculty might find it interesting is to contact Bill Doe, Coordinator for Research Opportunities.

Important Announcements

CUEngineering:  A publication for alumni and friends. Read the 2016 edition of CUEngineering magazine here.

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