Computer Laboratory

Dr Markus Kuhn

Consulting services

Occasionally, I am asked to provide commercial consulting services. If you are interested in this, here are a few guidelines:

  1. If the consultation is for a commercial for-profit company, the first 20 minutes are for free. After that, I normally expect to be allowed to send you an invoice for my time.
  2. I may be happy to offer some more amount of free or low-cost consulting services if the work is for the benefit of
    1. the sponsor of one of my research projects or students;
    2. an academic research project that I am personally interested in;
    3. an open-source software project that I am personally interested in;
    4. a non-profit organization, government agency, or standards body whose work I am personally interested in.
  3. I will normally not sign non-disclosure agreements, unless they are related to paid work.
  4. Any NDA you ask me to sign must explicitly exclude any information that
    1. is generally known, or becomes generally known later through no act or omission on my part,
    2. was known by me before,
    3. is rightfully obtained by me independently through a third party,
    4. is not clearly marked as “confidential” or “proprietary”.
  5. I will normally not sign non-disclosure agreements, unless they are time limited. I strongly dislike NDAs that will not have expired after three years (a reasonable period that leaves plenty of time for patent applications and product releases). If the consultation involves the critical low-level design details (circuit diagrams, source code, etc.) of a long-lived hardware security product, I may be willing to sign NDAs that last up to 15 years.
  6. Depending on the project, I might be interested in getting one of our PhD students or post-docs involved.
  7. I will normally not sign contracts unless they are interpreted and applied according to English (or German) law, with disputes resolved in an English (or German) court.
  8. I will normally not sign contracts that impose any restrictions on who else I am allowed to work with or what topics I can work on and publish about.
  9. Depending on the nature of the project, I will arrange the contract either myself privately, or via Cambridge Enterprise.

Within the University of Cambridge, academics are free to privately undertake commercial sideline projects (e.g., consulting, start-ups). There is an understanding that this must not interfere with normal duties and should not exceed about a day per week in the long-term.

You may find that I am most interested in solving specific, clearly-defined technical problems or research questions. In the past, I have been much less enthusiastic about requests to

  • testify as an expert witness in court;
  • evaluate third-party commercial ideas for investors;
  • have broad discussions with someone who cannot really explain what they want (and may just be fishing for ideas).