Differences between an internship and a master project in industry
There are important academic and administrative differences between an internship and a Master’s degree project in a company. During an internship, the student is generally employed by the company which ensures proper supervision of his/her work. For the Master’s degree project in a company, however, the supervision is ensured by a professor or Senior Scientist of EPFL, who collaborates with the company. Thus, a student cannot make a commitment to a company for a Master’s degree project without first obtaining the agreement of the professor who will supervise it. The latter will have ascertained and validated all the academic aspects of the work, in close consultation with the company.
Accordingly, the subject of a Master’s degree project in a company has to be a research topic linked to innovation. The focus of an internship, however, does not have this constraint and be situated in a more general context in connection to the various facets of the engineering profession.
General information about master projects at EPFL can be found on this page.
Confidentiality and intellectual property
Confidentiality is an exception in academia, which by nature must publish its findings. As a master project is an academic assignment, it should not generate results that are confidential.
Only the information belonging to the company must be treated as confidential by the student (and the professor, if he/she has previously agreed to be bound by such confidentiality).
The findings of a master project are not confidential and may be freely used by the EPFL, the company and the student as long as no patent has been filed and the results are not software.
The student must be careful not to transmit to the professor any confidential information belonging to the company, without clearly indicating it as such. This applies to information specified as confidential by the company in writing, but also to information observed within the company (unless it is in the public domain).
Students must be particularly careful not to sign an employment contract with the company forbidding them to disclose the results of the master project to their professor, failing which the work cannot be validated.
The thesis report should not contain any confidential information and should be downloadable on ISA as is.
However, if the student checks the Confidential box during upload, the professor is notified by an automatic email. The latter can confirm agreement only if he/she has contractually accepted that prior confidential information belonging to the company must not be disclosed to third parties, or where it is necessary, for the purpose of filing a patent, to keep portions of the report confidential for a reasonable period of time to allow such filing.
Unless the professor has signed a confidentiality agreement as described in the paragraph above, the professor must ask the student to remove the confidential parts of the report before upload.
Students may not use EPFL installations, resources, information, software or other intangible assets without their professor’s written approval.
Agreement for master project
An agreement for master project is available for professors wishing to supervise the master project through a tripartite contract (EPFL, student, company) or when the company wishes the professor to undertake to keep some company information confidential.
Students must be particularly careful not to sign an employment contract with the company forbidding them to disclose the results of the master project to the
The master project agreement has been drafted according to the basic principles described above, i.e. by protecting the confidentiality of information belonging to the company yet stating that the findings of the work may be freely used by EPFL, the student and the company as long as no patent is being filed and the results are not software.
Under the agreement for master project the student undertakes to transfer to the company all rights regarding any inventions made in the framework of the master project should the company wish to patent these, as well as any copyright on software developed.
Working authorization and remuneration
Master projects are considered as academic tasks overseen by a professor or a Senior Scientist at the School. The student can therefore work in the company without signing a contract and without the employer having to request work authorization, regardless of the nationality of the student. Similarly, there is also no remuneration obligation.