Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) is the only institutional unit legally able to submit proposals to external entities for financial support in the form of a contract, grant, or agreement, and legally able to commit the University on behalf of the Board of Regents in the event an award is made.
SPA's role in managing your award:
- Negotiate favorable terms on behalf of the principal investigator (PI) and the University (e.g., publication rights, intellectual property rights, rights in data, indemnification, payment terms, etc.)
- Accept awards on behalf of the University
- Establish and maintain project accounts in the financial system
- Create and distribute internal “Notice of Grant Award” synopsizing award terms and conditions
- Resolve post-award issues (rebudgeting requests, change of PI, disputes with subrecipients, questions about allowability of costs, etc.)
- Serve as institutional point of contact for questions raised by agencies (e.g., adherence to terms and conditions, compliance with reporting requirements, etc.)
On many bilateral agreements (both parties must sign), the sponsor and SPA must come to an agreement regarding the budget, the scope of work, and other terms and conditions of the award. These negotiations can take weeks or months, particularly if the sponsor is slow to respond to questions or requests to revise clauses. See the section earlier in this chapter regarding advance accounts for information on establishing an account before the final contract is signed.
On unilateral agreements, usually grants which the University does not sign, the sponsor will sometimes contact the PI directly to discuss the budget. Generally, any changes must be reviewed by the PI or their representative and SPA.
Items that may be subject to negotiation include:
- scope of work
- the reporting requirements, both technical and financial
- start and end dates
- audit requirements that do not conform to federal Uniform Guidance
- indemnity and liability
- F&A (indirect) costs
- ownership of technical developments
- limitations for publication
- requests for secrecy (see the Regents Openness in Research policy)
- intellectual property issues such as use of results in later projects and licenses
- payment terms
- adverse reaction
- governing law
Notification of Award
The award document is considered an official agreement of the scope of work, the amount the sponsor will provide, and other terms and conditions that govern the project.
Sponsors usually send SPA official notification of an award. However, if award notification has been sent to the PI or to a department or college office, the award notice and any agreements or contract materials must be forwarded immediately to SPA. Remember that the award is made to the University and not to a PI.
If it is a bilateral agreement (both parties must sign), SPA will send the PI a copy of the notice along with a memo requesting PI confirmation of technical terms, reporting requirements, and overall PI concurrence with the document. The agreement cannot move forward without PI input.
If SPA receives an electronic award transmission, staff members will forward them to PIs. Final agreements which are fully executed must be copied to PI and their representatives (i.e., administrators and/or the RSO, as appropriate).
Award notices typically contain the following information:
- title or description of the award
- award beginning and ending dates
- dollar amount awarded
- the terms of payment, (e.g., letter of credit vs. invoicing)
- programmatic deliverables
- financial invoicing/reporting requirements
- cost sharing or matching commitments
- a budget if it has changed from the proposed budget
Officially Accepting the Sponsored Grant, Contract, or Agreement
Through their policy on Submitting and Accepting Sponsored Projects, the Regents have delegated signatory authority for accepting awards to designated individuals in SPA. Once an agreement has been reviewed by SPA and the PI, it can be accepted and executed on behalf of the University by SPA. Since awards are made to the University of Minnesota and not to faculty, staff, or others, these individuals cannot accept grants or sign contracts or agreements.