Categories of research collaboration with external parties

The University Act distinguishes between four overall types of research collaboration with private and public sector companies, organisations, commercial foundations and government authorities. These distinctions are important, because the kind of influence and participation available to an external party depends on what type of collaboration is involved. 

The ground rules and the central principles apply in all collaborations with external parties. This also applies to collaborations that cannot be easily assigned to one of the four categories.


Definition: Co-funded research is a collaboration between a university and at least one external party. The parties define the scope of the collaborative project together, and both contribute to carrying it out.

Generally speaking, results generated wholly or in part by AU researchers belong to the university, and publication must be possible. The university co-funds the project (financially or by contributing manhours). 

Example: on the way



Definition: The university may perform commissioned research projects or services for an external party. All of the university’s costs must be borne by the external party. Ownership of results and publication rights must be defined in the collaboration agreement.

Example: on the way


Definition: A financial contribution to support research is made to a researcher or to the university. All conditions must be clearly described. 

In case of unconditional grants (aside from standard requirements for reporting, bookkeeping, information on changes, etc.) the notice of award will normally be considered sufficient as a written agreement.

If the funder attaches special conditions to the grant, the collaboration is then classified as co-financed or commissioned research. 

Example: on the way


Definition: Research-based public sector consultancy is an umbrella term for a variety of research services the university performs for the government, the municipalities and companies. Framework agreements are concluded between the universities and the respective ministries. Research results must be made accessible to the public.

Example of a standard public sector consultancy project A project from the Danish Agricultural Agency, Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark (MFVM), under the 2019-2023 framework agreement between AU and MFVM, 2019-2023 service agreement plant production, Work programme project 3.14 ‘Nitrification inhibitors under Danish conditions’ (in Danish).

The project is planned as part of the work programme and will be submitted to DCA as an order in accordance with MFVM’s procedure ‘Den gode bestilling’ (the good order). DCA will then pass the project on to the previously appointed contact person at AGRO and any other relevant researchers. See page 7 of the 2019 work programme – plant production (in Danish)

Example of a public sector consultancy project outside of the framework agreement: A project commissioned from ENVS by the Municipality of Copenhagen in the autumn of 2019 entitled  ‘Concentration profile across H.C. Andersens Boulevard, Copenhagen’ (in Danish). In this case, the Municipality of Copenhagen contacts ENVS, who involves DCE, so that the formalities are in place. Read the memo after the project (in Danish). 


In this context, ‘external parties’ refers to legal entities other than Aarhus University.

These ground rules do not apply to national and international research collaboration with other universities unless funding is received for the collaboration or a party has rights to the results of the collaboration. In this context, results are defined as intellectual property rights/IP. Find information about when it is necessary to make a formal contract under part 3 - Procedures