A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a legally binding contract used to transfer biological and other tangible research material(s) between two organizations, when the recipient intends to use it for his or her own research purposes. Providers of materials need to have written agreements to be sure that there is a common understanding of permitted uses of the materials and determination of the rights granted to each party.

An MTA documents the material being transferred and sets the terms and conditions with respect to issues such as ownership, permitted uses of the material, publication of results, development of inventions and liability. Establishing conditions prior to the transfer of material avoids issues and misunderstandings after the research has begun. Breaching an MTA creates legal and financial risks for the institution and researchers involved.

Outgoing MTAs allow CU researchers to send materials to researchers at other institutions or companies while protecting CU’s intellectual property (IP). Incoming MTAs from companies and other research institutions establishes CU’s right to publish and any claims to IP arising from the research, while preserving the company’s or institution’s IP rights to the materials being sent to CU researchers. CU negotiates MTAs on a case-by-case basis because each situation may call for different terms and conditions.

How to Initiate a Material Transfer Agreement

The Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG) oversees the various stages of contract negotiation and execution of MTAs. Requests for both inbound and outbound MTAs can be initiated through the MTA Submission Form.

Once the MTA Submission Form is complete, OCG will:

  1. Review the submission and draft or review the MTA to ensure compliance with university policies
  2. Work with TTO, University Counsel, OEC, EH&S, and other campus offices to address potential concerns
  3. Correspond directly with the other institution to finalize the MTA
  4. Coordinate signatures once the terms are finalized

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Important Information

CU Boulder investigators cannot sign MTAs on behalf of the University. As of July 1, 2016, delegation of signature authority for Material Transfer Agreements on the Boulder campus was transferred from the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) to the Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG).

Transferring Export Controlled Material

All transfers of research materials, software, or data must comply with export control and trade sanction regulations.

Under U.S. export control laws, a license may be required from the Bureau of Industry and Security of the Department of Commerce for the export of certain materials. There are, for instance, controls on the export of materials that could possibly be used in chemical or biological weapons. Examples of such materials include human pathogens, zoonosis, toxins, animal pathogens, genetically modified microorganisms, plant pathogens, radioactive materials, magnetic metals, propellants and ceramic materials.

A Principal Investigator who is planning to transfer materials outside the United States, that are controlled by the Department of Commerce Export Administration Regulations or the Department of State International Traffic in Arms Regulations should work with the CU Boulder’s Export Control Office to obtain the required license. There are civil and criminal penalties for violating the Export Administration Regulations. For more information, consult the CU Boulder Office of Export Controls website.