On the contractual governance of research collaborations: Allocating control and intellectual property rights in the shadow of potential termination
This paper investigates the governance design problem of a large company that wants to engage a small and cashless firm into a research collaboration. This analysis reflects the frequently observed collaborations between pharma companies and biotechs, and an actual research contract is assessed to link theory to practice. The governance form refers to the allocation of control rights over the research process and property rights over research output(s), as determined by the initial contract; yet this contract is incomplete. The parties negotiate at a later stage from bargaining positions that depend on the initial choice of the governance, but they also contemplate the possibility that the collaboration will be terminated. By means of a simple model that captures the core aspects of the contractual environment, I answer a key research question: How should governance be designed in the shadow of potential termination to provide the research firm with the incentives to invest in the collaboration? First, it is in the company’s interest to choose a governance form that eliminates the possibility of termination and stabilizes the collaboration whenever possible. Second, if the collaboration cannot be stabilized, the company faces a trade-off between reducing the probability of termination and providing incentives, which is ultimately resolved by making the collaboration highly unstable. Third, property rights and control are substitutes in the governance design: If the company collects more property rights, it must relinquish more control rights.
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