Guidelines for Starting a Corporate Affiliates Program at Princeton

Why You May Want to Start a Corporate Affiliate Program

Corporate affiliate programs are an important enabler in the innovation process of translating fundamental research discoveries into products and services that benefit society. They enable faculty and student researchers to have a deep, substantive dialog with corporate research and development (R&D) personnel around compelling research topic areas.  They provide insight to faculty and students about corporate research and development priorities, challenges and opportunities. Moreover, companies can become more aware of the research agenda and discoveries at Princeton.

A corporate affiliate program (CAP) is a many-to-many membership program enabling a group of faculty to engage a group of companies to discuss and explore a specific, compelling research topic area in a pre-competitive space. (ex: quantum computing, wireless networking, natural language processing, blockchain, soft matter)

Typically, corporate members pay an annual membership fee which may support research, teaching and administrative activities.  This fee is considered to be an unrestricted gift to Princeton and no statement of work, deliverables or intellectual property terms are specified or included.  The results of any research supported by an affiliate program membership fees must be shared with all the members and made available to the general public.

The programming provided by such programs typically delivers value to the corporate members through:

  • Invitations to symposia, workshops, meetings including poster sessions and keynotes.
  • Participation by technical executives in lectures, panels and fireside chat events.
  • Easy access to publications and communications (available to the public)
  • Research on specified topics
  • Facilitated access to faculty, grad student & post doc talent
  • Potential to connect with faculty around sponsored research projects

Corporate affiliate programs provide value to the Princeton community by providing faculty and students insights into the challenges and opportunities that face industry. Please review the following sections to see what is required to start a program at Princeton.

  1. Key Elements for a Corporate Affiliate Program
  2. Process for Establishing a New Corporate Affiliate Program in SEAS
  3. Request for Approval of a Corporate Affiliate Program

Key Elements for a Corporate Affiliate Program

Program Focus

Determine the program focus and scope.  It is recommended that the program be organized around a specific, compelling research topic area.


Each Affiliate Program must have one or more faculty directors or leaders.  The leader is responsible for compliance with corporate affiliate program policies and procedures.  Leaders are responsible for developing program activities and assuring appropriate program expenditures.

Faculty Participation

In addition to the Faculty Director/Lead, the key to the success of the CAP is faculty participation. Thus, each corporate affiliate program must have a minimum of two active faculty members. Faculty must meet the Principal Investigator Eligibility criteria.  

Framing Workshop

It is recommended that faculty organize a framing workshop that includes corporate partners and strongest prospects as a planning activity. Review proposed member benefits and activities, fees, etc.; listen for feedback and modify the program scope and fees as needed.

Administrative Staff

A designated staff member is required to work with the faculty leader and be responsible to plan, organize, and administer the daily operation of the CAP including the collection of membership fees and management of funds to support the activities of the program. (This staff member may be a shared resource.) This is essential for a successful CAP. If the CAP grows, the need for additional staff should be evaluated to ensure programmatic objectives are met.

Membership Benefits

Develop proposed program goals, activities, member benefits, and member responsibilities. Such considerations include how the program will differentiate itself from other programs and deliver value. The benefits and programming provided should include information about:

  • Invitations to symposia, workshops, meetings including poster sessions and keynotes.
  • Participation by technical executives in lectures, panels and fireside chat events.
  • Research on specified topics
  • Facilitated access to faculty, grad student & post doc talent
  • Visiting industry research collaborators
  • Potential to connect with faculty around sponsored research projects


Develop a list of potential member companies and identify the most likely for recruitment. Ensure that there are a sufficient number (minimum of 3-5) of companies willing to join and determine if there will be any restrictions on companies due to compliance or regulatory matters. If more companies are needed to establish the CAP, identify further modifications to scope and fees that make sense and will boost member ranks. The number of members required to have a robust program will depend on the type and scope of the CAP.


The budget should estimate revenue and expenses to operate as well as any recurring, internal commitments. Be sure to include the cost of at least a part-time administrative staff person. As a rough guide, a CAP with basic programming and one part time staff member can expect an annual budget of $100,000 – 150,000.


Membership fees are set by each Affiliate Program and are usually paid on an annual basis. Fees may be tiered by company size or other criteria.  Fees for all tiers must be published.  While programs can set their own fees, it is anticipated that many will be in the range of $10,000 - $20,000 per year.  Programs should be aware of the budget and spending authority of the corporate representative that they are engaging. 

Sponsored Research and Intellectual Property Licensing Rights 

All companies are eligible to sponsor research projects with individual faculty or teams of faculty members. Typically, companies that sponsor research projects via a research agreement will receive royalty-free, non-exclusive commercial licensing rights to the intellectual property that results from such sponsored research.  All such companies can also negotiate for royalty-bearing, exclusive, commercial licensing rights for intellectual property derived from such sponsored research. Individual research agreements shall be negotiated with the respective faculty member and Princeton’s Offices of Research and Project Administration and of Technology Licensing. Sponsorship of research projects with intellectual property rights will accrue full indirect cost rates, while support of general research topics (via gifts) without intellectual property rights and without a predefined scope or deliverables will not accrue indirect costs. 

Public Access to Research Results

Corporate Affiliate Programs must adhere to principles of openness in research and dissemination of results for research funded by program membership fees.  Results of research funded by Affiliate Program membership fees shall be made available to members and non-members alike in an open and timely manner.  These research results may be shared on a website as long as the general public can also gain access to those results in the same manner.

Membership Compliance

Corporate members will be invoiced each year for their dues.  The invoice will include an agreement to comply with Princeton’s CAP Policies and Procedures which will be published on the Dean for Research / CEFR website.  Potential corporate members that have headquarters in sensitive countries must be reviewed and approved by the Dean for Research.

Communications Plan

Each corporate affiliate program must create and maintain public web content that is operational and up-to-date.  The web content should include, at a minimum, a description of the program’s research activities, the names of current faculty and corporate members, the program’s benefits and the cost of participation. Corporate Engagement Office will provide templates for content and host the corporate affiliates’ web pages on its website.


Process for Establishing a New Corporate Affiliate Program in SEAS


Planning is initiated by a group of faculty members assembling themselves and identifying a specific, compelling research topic area. 

These faculty members should each have contacts with one or more companies interested in the research topic area and capacity to join the corporate affiliate program. 

A faculty member volunteers to direct/lead the affiliates program.

The faculty lead reviews the corporate affiliate program essential elements (see above) to ensure all criteria are met.

Prepare a Request for Approval of Affiliate Program form (Appendix A)

Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations (CEFR) will meet with the faculty leader and participating faculty to review the request form, discuss essential elements and answer any questions about establishing an affiliates program.

Request for Approval will then be submitted by CEFR to the Dean of SEAS for approval.

Once approved by the Dean, the faculty leader and administrative staff will create web content describing the program’s research activities, the names of current faculty, the program’s benefits and the cost of participation.  CEFR can provide a template for this web content and design assistance.


The aim of this phase is to validate the program’s value proposition with companies, modify it if necessary and sign up the charter members. 

A minimum of three companies are required to launch an affiliate program.

Using the web content as a resource, faculty members reach out to companies that they identified in the planning phase to request participation in the corporate affiliates program.  A framing workshop, as mentioned above, may be a useful tool. CEFR staff are available to assist the faculty in this effort. 

Recruitment is a continuing process with more companies becoming members as the CAP operates and matures.


Announce the new CAP to relevant audiences. Schedule kick-off meeting.

The key to a successful program is high-quality member engagement and programming that encourages annual membership renewal.


Each active CAP will submit an annual report summarizing memberships, fees received, and programs conducted to the Dean of SEAS and CEFR by June 30.  CEFR staff will then meet with the faculty leader to discuss the report and assist with changes and plans for the next academic year.

Request for Approval of a Corporate Affiliate Program

Please email as much of the following information as possible to Chip Hay in the Corporate Engagement Office.

  • Name of Corporate Affiliate Program
  • Research topic area and purpose of the program
  • Faculty members and their departments (w/ email address)
  • Faculty Director/Leader (w email address)
  • Administrative Staff: (w/ email address)
  • Membership fee (including tiers if used)
  • Interested companies and their respective faculty contact
  • Proposed Programming and Activities
  • Web site content for the program
  • If the Corporate Affiliate Program plans to conduct research, a description of when and how research results will be made available to members and nonmembers.