Funder-Institution RelationS Task (FIRST) Group

Working Group Description

The FIRST group is focused on enhancing relationships with research institutions to work together on common provisions in grant agreements such as intellectual property, reporting requirements, and indirect costs by:

  • surveying the landscape,
  • identifying common ground, and
  • providing guidance to funders and institutions around our interest.

The FIRST Group was formed following a meeting at which participants from HRA member organizations realized there are several issues they’d like to learn more about, such as the range of practices among funders for negotiating intellectual property (IP), why some funders choose no ownership of IP, and how much time and effort funders are spending negotiating IP.  Another key issue that surfaced at this meeting was funder policies on payment of Indirect Costs (also called facilities & administration, or F&A) to the institutions.  Although funders see IP and F&A as separate issues, for some institutions these issues are intertwined.


The FIRST Group partners with key organizations to advance its goals.  After the initial meeting hosted by Stanford University, HRA has hosted Members Meeting sessions and webinars, and joined forces with FasterCures and the Council on Governmental Relations to bring together many different perspectives.

Nonprofit Funder – Research Institution (NFRI) Partnership

In 2017, a formal working group began conducting monthly calls to advance discussions on IP and technology transfer, reimbursement of research operating costs, and how to streamline administrative requirements. These discussions led to a May 16, 2018 meeting supported by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s (NASEM) Government University Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR). Among the goals of the meeting was to engage the broader community of nonprofit funders and research institutions in these discussions and to demonstrate the potential benefits of a broad, ongoing partnership between nonprofit funders and research institutions.

From that meeting, four subcommittees were formed and continue to meet by phone to develop guidelines and resources relating to the topics below.

  1. Intellectual Property Workgroup: IP/Technology Transfer is one of the central themes in the research funder-performer relationship. A premeeting survey showed that the major challenges regarding IP policy are a key concern for both funders and performers. The results of a premeeting survey and meeting report out are posted.
  2. Research Project Related Costs Workgroup: This group’s goal is to increase transparency and support of research project-related costs by identifying costs that are direct, costs that are indirect, and costs that are often classified as indirect but can be specifically identified with a research project.  The group hosted a webinar to educate funders on the ins and outs of IDC, and will create subsequent resources to educate research institutions about the wide variety of funders’ polices with respect to IDC.
  3. Streamlining Administrative Requirements Workgroup: This group is identifying major challenges within 4 broad areas (Proposal Submission, Award Issuance and Acceptance (i.e. contracting), Financial Reporting, and Additional Administrative Issues (i.e. reporting progress, publications, IP development), and suggesting ways that funders and universities can change what they do to address those challenges.  Their recommendations are in a draft Working Document.)
  4. Principles Workgroup The goal of this subgroup is to outline guiding principles for building stronger, more effective relationships.

Collecting Data and Creating Resources

In addition to partnering, the FIRST Group collects and disseminates data to understand the relationships between non-profit funders and the research institutions they fund.  See the Resources section for links to the various resources developed by the FIRST Group.

The initial resource developed was a “HRA FIRST Group Funder Survey” to better understand current issues in research award, grant or contract requirements from the perspective of nonprofit health funders. FIRST Group Survey Results  have informed discussions toward the development of guidelines and principles that can be embraced by a wide community of nonprofit funders.



In 2018, the FIRST Group is being co-chaired by: