Guides to Outside Consulting

UC Berkeley’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) encourages UC faculty to serve as advisors to companies, including startups affiliated with Berkeley accelerators such as SkyDeck, CITRIS Foundry, and QB3 Garage. Advising companies can be rewarding, and most issues are typically straightforward to address. 

The Berkeley Sponsored Projects Office Quick Guide to Outside Consulting Agreements provides a comprehensive overview of issues faculty should consider when entering into personal outside consulting agreements, with links to relevant campus and UC-systemwide policies. 

If you developed an invention in the performance of activities outside of the university (such as under a consulting agreement with a company), and you don't want to disclose proprietary information as part of your invention disclosure to the University, you can use the Invention Disclaimer Request Form

For more on UC policy related to advising startups, see frequently asked questions below. Submit additional questions to the IPIRA Concierge, or contact OTL Director of Innovation Ecosystem Development Mike Cohen ( 

Should I sign a confidentiality agreement with the startup, and what should I know about consulting agreements?

Signing confidential agreements could limit your future ability to publish, collaborate, or even perform sponsored research. Consequently, it’s not a good practice to sign confidentiality agreements, and you should be judicious about what confidential information encumbers you.

IPIRA can provide a set of provisions that are recommended as best practices for including in a consulting agreement between faculty and a company.

Do I need to be aware of any conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment?

Simply advising startup companies doesn’t create a conflict. However, conflicts can arise if, for example: (a) you or the startup conduct commercial work in your lab, or (b) you are compensated by the startup and advise the startup more than the allowable number of days.

Here’s a good resource regarding conflicts of interests:

Note that UC Berkeley has a program administered by IPIRA that enables startups affiliated with the university’s accelerators to conduct...

If my startup advising results in IP, then what should I do, and who owns it?

Under UC policy, employees agree to disclose to the university their development of patentable inventions and copyrightable software. Furthermore, UC can take an ownership interest in any resulting patent rights or software copyrights if the activity that led to the intellectual property: (a) was funded via the university, (b) used material university resources, or (c) is part of the scope of work of the university employee.

Your advising to startups is not likely to be funded via the university, or use material university resources. Nonetheless, if you develop inventions or...

Do I need to disclose my startup advising to the university?

If you are receiving compensation (e.g. cash or equity) in return for advising a startup, then it’s considered a Category II activity, and accordingly, you need to annually report this activity to the university.

If you are not receiving compensation for your advising, then the activity is not likely to incur the time and responsibility required to merit annual disclosure to the university.

Here’s a good summary of the different categories of activity, and corresponding policies: