Faculty Participation in Start-Up Companies

Faculty ownership (equity) in a start-up company can be an excellent means of transferring university developed technology to the public sector and promoting economic development. This is particularly true for embryonic technology where existing companies are unwilling to undertake the required research and development effort.

However, State ethics laws prohibit state employees from maintaining a material financial interest in a company that "contracts" or licenses technology from the university except when it is approved by the Mississippi University Research Authority (MURA). MURA assures that the start-up company/university relationships, that could constitute a conflict of interest under State law, are managed properly. Refer to Mississippi Code 37-147-3 for details (Appendix).

The MURA Law requires university employees to submit a MURA letter applying for permission to establish and maintain a material financial interest in a company formed to license and commercialize technology they developed as a university employee. The MURA letter is submitted to the Office of Technology Management (OTM) for review and further processing. Key requirements of the application letter are shown below.

  • The letter should fully describe the nature of the enterprise, the faculty interest in the company, and how the company will benefit the economy of Mississippi.
  • In addition, state that the company will not adversely affect the University or any substantial state interest.
  • Please submit the MURA letter PRIOR TO ANY FINANCIAL TRANSACTION and provide updates any time a change occurs in the company.
  • Annual updates are also required. 

The review and approval procedure is shown below:

  1. The inventor/developer prepares a draft MURA letter and sends it to the OTM office for review.
  2. OTM reviews the letter and works with the inventor/developer to prepare a final version for signatures.
  3. OTM will circulate the final version of the MURA letter to the Dept Head/Director, Dean/Vice President, VP for Research and finally to the President for signature.
  4. After the President approves the MURA letter, it is returned to VP for Research who forwards the letter to MURA for approval.
  5. The VP for Research will inform applicant and the OTM office of MURA approval and handle annual follow-up.

Be sure you have allowed enough time for approval before you or the company conducts any financial transactions with the University.