Original Date: 02/03/1997
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Cooperative Research Program Process
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Cooperative Research Program (CRP) provides the means for industry, government, and academia to cooperate in shared research efforts. SAE has established comprehensive, but flexible, processes for accommodating various mobility research projects. The processes described below highlight the significant steps of the CRP process such as project selection, participant selection, funding, contract management, and project management.
CRP’s project selection begins in many ways. Companies may identify projects and request SAE to facilitate a joint venture. SAE’s Technical Committees may identify research needed to support reports, standards, practices, and specifications. Any group of companies or participants (members or non-members) may also identify a project for SAE to facilitate. The Research Executive Committee reviews and approves all projects for appropriateness to the SAE charter and conformance with the National Cooperative Research Act. In general, projects must advance the technical expertise used to design, build, maintain, and operate self-propelled (land, sea, air, and space) vehicles.
After research projects are identified and approved, participant selection begins. Participation criteria generally are based on technical background, financial contributions, and resources needed for the project. As the administrator, SAE provides an unbiased and legal environment for the project and participants; prevents any participating organization or industry segment from dominating the project’s direction and outcome; and ensures adherence to the National Cooperative Research Act. Participants can be identified and/or targeted based on their technical interest via SAE’s extensive customer database. In addition, participation can be solicited or encouraged through SAE’s outreach activities such as periodicals, newsletters, and newspapers. When appropriate, SAE can enlist or give the opportunity to an entire industry to participate in projects. Some projects have included more than 20 organizations and government agencies.
Funding comes from participants’ financial and resource contributions (e.g., personnel, equipment, facilities, data) and from grants or contracts by federal, state, and local government agencies. Funding options are open, flexible, and accommodate equal status to all participants in the project. Participants grant final decisions for all funding options. In all cases, SAE seeks to recover direct costs for providing administrative services with the goal of breaking even or better. Before any project commences, funding commitments must be secured. SAE has the framework to set up distinct project escrow accounts for the participants; solicit contributions; invoice per contract; and disburse to subcontractors. SAE’s accounting services are provided free of charge to the CRP project, and were developed to accommodate government guidelines and satisfy government audits.
Through contract management, SAE administers the CRP projects by issuing contracts or other agreements with any third party involved in the project. The Society maintains legal expertise and experience in government contract requirements and adherence. SAE’s ability to act as contract signatory proves to be very significant with respect to fiscal year liability. In addition, SAE can set up proprietary partnerships and restrict distribution of results as identified by the participants. For projects requiring confidentiality, SAE can code the data, resources, and results. The Society maintains an extensive publication framework for disseminating results to the project partners and the public.
CRP is structured for autonomous operation and project flexibility. Through project management, the participants direct the CRP project by forming a management group. SAE then carries out the administrative responsibilities, drawing on its expertise in resolving project issues and its lessons learned in diverting unique issues. Additional services provided by SAE include graphic and publishing capabilities for the project’s research results and final reports; distribution to appropriate participants, members, industrial interest groups, and the public; and inclusion in and archival maintenance to appropriate databases.
In addition, CRP promotes strong ties to SAE’s Technical Standards Program. Approximately 50% of the projects are in some way associated with an SAE technical standards committee or technical area. As a result of CRP projects, SAE has developed dozens of new standards and provided data limits for many more. Many government projects call for a draft standard as a deliverable from the research project.
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