Collaborating with external organisations

Exterior of Agribio building at nightThe purpose of collaboration

Research in a collaborating organisation has benefits for yourself as a candidate, the organisation and the University. It may provide you with the opportunity to do research that is not available anywhere else and will be an important step in your career, especially if you go on to be employed in research. The organisation you work with will benefit from your research and the University will further its research aims and teaching research. Collaborative relationships are an important part of the University's  relationship with the wider community and research networks.

If you study for your research degree with a collaborating organisation, sometimes you may need to check that your work is clearly focused on your study, research project and your thesis that will be examined for your degree.

Agreements and requirements

Just as if you were studying on campus, you need to understand all arrangements for your research and study. The relationship between La Trobe and the outside organisation should be adequately explained to you.

You should meet the staff you will work with in both the collaborating organisation and the University before agreeing to the carry out the research project and completing your enrolment. You need to agree who will supervise your research and the membership of your Research Progress Panel, and consider the resources you will need and any issues of intellectual property and patents.

Undertaking research as part of a collaborative relationship does not change your degree – the same requirements, policies and provisions apply. Keep in mind that there may be policies and procedures that the collaborating organisation requires you to observe.

Supervisors, Research Progress Panels (RPP) and other staff

Your principal supervisor will be a member of the University staff. However, a staff member of the collaborating institution may be a co-supervisor who works closely with you and knows your work in detail.

Meeting and reporting to your RPP applies as if you were studying on campus. Your RPP will include a full-time staff member of La Trobe and the chair of your RPP may not be your supervisor.


Undertaking research as part of a collaboration with an outside organisation will usually involve that organisation providing resources for your research and study. These may include:

  • office space and facilities including a computer
  • laboratory or studio facilities and materials
  • access to data, archival materials and the people/objects/materials that are focus of your research
  • literature and library resources.

Before starting your project you need to know how the resources you will need will be made available to you and any restrictions on their use.


If ethics approval is required, you must follow both the appropriate University procedure and the collaborating organisation's procedures for obtaining it. Find out more about:

Intellectual Property (IP) and Patents

The University does not normally have any claim to ownership of the intellectual property (IP) or inventions students create in the course of their studies and research.

Carrying out research with an outside organisation may require that you agree to assign your rights to Exploitable IP arising in the course of your research or studies. Exploitable IP is IP which may be the subject of Commercial Exploitation – generating financial or other commercial gains – by the University or collaborating organisation, including inventions, plant varieties and copyright in computer programs. An agreement about IP or patents should be explained to you and completed before you agree to the research project and your enrolment.

If you do not have an agreement about patents and exploitable IP and you make a discovery, you have an obligation to disclose it to the University in order to enable the University to examine the circumstances of the invention and to confirm that no other members of the University or the collaborating organisation (or any other third parties) have an interest in the invention.

Similarly, if your research involves confidential information you must agree to and observe the collaborating organisation's restrictions on its use.

Find out more about intellectual property.