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Summer means negotiation time for the TTO contract team

Whenever AU researchers have to negotiate large million-kroner contracts, the lawyers in the contract team at the Technology Transfer Office are ready to advise and support them in the complex negotiation processes. Even when many others are enjoying their holiday.


The contract team counts 12 lawyers and the team shares its offices with the rest of the AU Technology Transfer Office (TTO) at Katrinebjerg. The contract team helps AU researchers conclude contracts with foundations and companies on a daily basis.

Torkil Bukkehave Hansen is a member of the team. He just completed a major assignment over the summer involving negotiation of a collaboration agreement on a research project worth almost DKK 30 million and funded by Innovation Fund Denmark.

"Negotiation tasks in the context of Innovation Fund Denmark usually arrive on our desks at the end June and run into the middle of August. The process didn't present major challenges this year, so I could take time off for my summer holiday," says Torkil Bukkehave Hansen, and he continues: "Last year was different. Last year I sometimes had to work in the evenings during my holiday with my family in France."

He is not at liberty to comment in any detail on the project that he worked on this summer, because Innovation Fund Denmark has yet to officially announce the project. Instead, he elaborates on what it is exactly that he focusses on as a lawyer in these types of negotiation processes:

"We focus in particular on three areas when we review a collaboration contract. Firstly, we have to make sure that the university is entitled to publish its results. Secondly, we have to make sure there is an operational and legal commercialisation strategy is in place, so that any inventions from the project can benefit society. And finally, as much as possible, we have to ensure that researchers are entitled to continue their research on the basis of the results," explains Torkil Bukkehave Hansen.

Between 150 and 200 contracts land on his desk every year.

Extensive expertise in the team

Because of the many cases that Torkil Bukkehave Hansen and his colleagues review each year, the team has considerable expert knowledge and experience with these types of contract and how to negotiate them. This is why they often end up as project managers in the negotiations.

"The role of project manager in the negotiation phase is particularly exciting when the negotiation involves many parties, typically 10-20 parties. An exciting challenge is if one side wants to negotiate in French, while the other prefers English," he says smiling.

In addition to linguistic and organisational challenges in the process, there are often challenges in relation to the different negotiation temperaments across different countries and the fact that some countries may have their own special rules," says Torkil Bukkehave Hansen.

Business initiatives translated into practice

The international perspective and collaborating with researchers are some of the aspects that motivate him in his job. Another aspect is that many of the projects have very real and specific goals.

"One thing that motivates me during contract negotiations in many of the larger research projects is that the project has an obvious value for society. The end goal is often very specific - and it's rewarding to see the university's business initiatives in practice," says Torkil Bukkehave Hansen, although he would be a little happier if the most demanding contract negotiations did not run from June to August.

BACKGROUND: About the TTO contract team

  • In addition to providing consultancy and managing contract negotiations with foundations and companies, the team solves tasks in relation to the AU business initiative and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Following a very busy period, the team has now received extra resources in the form of new legal staff to help eliminate the case backlog.
  • Read more about the TTO

About the series:

In this series of articles, University Director Arnold Boon highlights important operational tasks being carried out in various corners of the administration. The aim of the series is to give administrative employees insight into what kinds of tasks their co-workers in other units perform, and to highlight some of the tasks that are performed behind the scenes.