I’m a graduate student. I want to start a company or organization.
You have a fantastic idea! You have collaborators, and you have given a lot of thought to how to organize your endeavor. Great!
Before you proceed too much further, undertaking the discussions below will help avoid major issues:
1. How will you balance your entrepreneurial activities with your research and academic obligations – in other words, is there a conflict of commitment? To what extent, if at all, will your entrepreneurial activities impact your academic milestones? Discuss with your academic or research advisor.
2. Explain to your academic or research advisor the topic of your proposed start-up and determine if your entrepreneurship and research activities are separate and distinct in terms of technical scope (is there any potential overlap?). In other words, the research you are doing in the lab is fundamental and by its nature publishable, while commercialization activities are very distinct from research activities and are intended for financial gain.
Any entrepreneurship activity that is not clearly separate and distinct in scope from an existing research obligation is generally not permitted.
This Startup Scenario flowchart provides guidance for different circumstances. For general information, see Starting a Company webpage.
3. Determine whether or not you plan to use any MIT-owned technologies.
|Yes, I’m planning to use MIT-owned technologies|
|No, I’m not planning to use MIT-owned technologies|
4. If any MIT faculty members/research staff will have any affiliation with your company, consider potential conflicts of interest for the MIT faculty members/research staff.
If this person has a supervisory role over your research, thesis, student teaching, academic work, or other area, involvement in your company creates an academic conflict of interest for both parties. Supervisory roles include but are not limited to academic advisor, research advisor, thesis committee member, supervising postdoc, research staff member, or subject instructor.
- You must disclose this conflict of interest to your graduate officer, who may involve your department head or other personnel to identify potential paths forward.
- Conflicts of interest can occasionally be mitigated or resolved with a well-thought-out conflict management plan. Reach out to MIT’s Conflict of Interest Office to learn more.
If the person does not have a supervisory role over your research, thesis, student teaching, academic work, or other area, then there is no clear academic conflict of interest. Supervisory roles include but are not limited to academic advisor, research advisor, thesis committee member, supervising postdoc, research staff member, or subject instructor.
See related MIT policies: