Public-private partnerships (PPPs) offer many advantages but can be challenging to design and implement. Finding the basis for alignment in missions and business or operating principles among the partners is necessary. Also required is clear definition of the goals and policies of the partnership. It is probably not worth the effort to develop a PPP if the aims of the partnership can be achieved by one partner working alone.
The PPP Value Proposition
All partners must perceive value in a PPP for it to succeed.
The value proposition for National Institutes of Health (NIH) and potential partners differs according to the mission and goals for each partner.
- For NIH: PPPs are a means to accomplish our mission to improve the public health through biomedical research in a better way – faster, more economically, more safely, more effectively – by leveraging public resources with partners’ resources.
- For regulators: to develop a robust body of regulatory science to underpin regulatory decision-making.
- For industry: to increase the knowledge base to facilitate the more effective and efficient development of new targets, new interventions, new diagnostics, new devices, etc.
- For academics: to increase access to resources for training, research and extensions into improvements in the public health.
- For patients: to gain earlier access to applications and improvements deriving from NIH’s investment in biomedical research – i.e., new, safer and more effective drugs, interventions, and diagnostics.
PPP Design Principles and Requirements
When pursuing a PPP is in the interest of the NIH as a means to accomplish our mission and promote the priorities of the agency and/or the IC, a number of organizational and structural details must be worked out.
Among the challenges in designing and implementing a PPP is communication. Even when it seems that partners are ‘speaking the same language’, the cultures of various sectors differ widely and the meaning of commonly used terms can be very different. Likewise, the organizational structure, locus and basis of decision-making, and operating principles differ tremendously.
The roles and responsibilities of the partners as well as the flow of resources and funds are critical and central to the partnership agreements, usually memorialized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Another challenge is that of business principles. As an agency of the U.S. government, the NIH is dedicated to serving the entire U.S. public health, and operates in an inclusive, open and fair manner. NIH’s means of spending funds is defined by our authorities for grant and contract mechanisms; both are governed by Federal law. The NIH favors the development of public resources from efforts using public funds. These principles may not be the usual manner of operating with potential partners.
Definition of the policies of the partnership relating to data sharing, data access, intellectual property, participation, governance and decision-making, etc. is needed so that all parties understand the basis of the partnership.
Thus, careful negotiation may be needed to define the common principles and rules for the PPP, where compromise is necessary and possible, and what form the final partnership can take in order to align with both the goals and practices of all partners.
NIH PPP Program staff can help you to maximize the value and minimize the obstacles of your PPP.