Partnering Agreements

Fermilab offers many types of partnering agreements. Such partnering agreements may include the Reimbursable Work for Others (WFO) agreement, the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), User Facility Agreements, Agreements for Commercializing Technology (ACT), and any other derivatives of these basic agreement types.

Fermilab also partners with industry through procurement agreements. In fact, procurement agreements have been and will continue to be Fermilab’s dominant form of industry partnership, given the large number of projects underway at the Laboratory. These procurements are more than simple purchases of commercial products or services, however.  Fermilab seeks to use commercial, off-the-shelf technology whenever possible. However, that technology is seldom able to meet the demands of high energy physics use cases without further development. The close collaboration that occurs between Fermilab and its suppliers to adapt and improve existing technologies frequently results in significant improvements to the suppliers’ technology, which in turn, benefits the supplier’s commercial customers.


Strategic Partnership Project (SPP) agreements, formerly referred to as Work for Others (WFO), provide an excellent way for companies, universities, and other institutions to access the unique facilities, technologies, and expertise available at Fermilab on a project-specific basis. Under an SPP agreement, a Partner can pay full cost recovery for unique laboratory services and receive these benefits:

  • Retain right to elect title to Subject Inventions
  • Protect generated data as proprietary
  • Opt for a limited government R&D license (certain restrictions apply)

The SPP agreement allows our sponsors access to our unique capabilities, facilities, and resources to resolve their scientific, engineering, and other critical technology challenges to address both private and national needs.

Sponsors — domestic or foreign — can come from private industry, including small businesses, universities, and state, local, and other federal government agencies. Sponsors pay the entire cost of the work to be performed on a full-cost-recovery basis. Under specific conditions, a company may take title to inventions created by Fermilab under the SPP agreement.

SPP projects must complement Fermilab and DOE missions and not hinder Fermilab’s execution of assigned DOE programs or be in direct competition with the domestic private sector.


A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) provides a way for DOE laboratories to engage in collaborative research and development agreements with both public and private entities, for the mutual benefit of both parties. Under a CRADA:

  • The Lab and the Partner may share costs or the Partner may pay the 100% of the costs
  • The Lab and the Partner may elect to own inventions
  • Partner has the right to negotiate exclusive license to Lab inventions
  • Generated data can be protected up to five years

A CRADA defines and governs a Fermilab-industry collaborative research relationship with the objective of advancing science and technology that not only benefits DOE and the nation, but also has potential commercial applications of interest to our industrial partners.

CRADA opportunities provide industry with an excellent way to leverage and optimize research and development funds, and conduct research that might not otherwise be possible, in a protected and confidential environment. With such a collaborative agreement, DOE and private industry may jointly sponsor a project that contributes to the goals of each participating party, leveraging research efforts by both the Laboratory and the partner(s) involved.

Fermilab and its partner(s) outside the federal government — usually from industry, nonprofit organizations, or academia — collaborate and share the results of a jointly conducted R&D project. Costs, personnel, facilities, equipment, or research capabilities are usually cost-shared for mutual benefit.

Companies are able to retain rights to their own inventions made under a CRADA and may be granted an option to Fermilab inventions. Intellectual property created by Fermilab under a CRADA agreement is retained by Fermilab.


Under a Non-Proprietary User Agreement (NPUA), researchers who engage in non-proprietary research are able to access Fermilab’s unique scientific User Facilities without paying a user fee. Under this agreement:

  • Users commit to publishing research results in the open literature
  • Users retain the right to elect title to their own inventions
  • Department of Energy retains unlimited rights in generated data

Users are responsible for their own experimental costs. Fermilab provides users with resources sufficient to conduct work safely and efficiently. Users may access additional services, such as housing, travel, or stock room supplies, by establishing User Accounts.

Effective October 1, 2015, a Non-proprietary User Agreement (NPUA), signed by the appropriate institutional officer at the User Institution, is required before individual users can work on-site at Fermilab on experiments that are associated with the Fermilab Accelerator Complex.

Click here to view a list of Institutions with Active Non-Proprietary User Agreements (NPUAs).

Download a copy of Fermilab Standard Non-Proprietary User Agreement.