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Sponsored Project, Gift, Grant, Contract/Agreement?

The following lists of characteristics are provided as a means of further clarifying how external funds from non-governmental entities will be classified and processed. The existence of one factor alone may not be determinative. Multiple factors should be considered in order to decide whether a sponsored project exists and therefore must be processed by ORSP via the eResearch Proposal Management System (eRPM) with a Proposal Approval Form (PAF).

What is a Contract or an Agreement?

We often describe contracts and agreements as "unfunded agreements" because there is usually no money attached. A contract or an agreement involves a promise, or set of promises, for which the performance of is recognized as a legal obligation. Each contract document contains a statement of work or a description of the services to be provided. This work statement should be drafted with great care, for failure by the University or contractor to deliver the results anticipated, or to perform what is defined in the statement of work, is a breach of contract.


When in doubt, first contact your primary research administrator, and then contact a U-M office that can facilitate, such as:

Foundation Relations: With some nonprofit sponsors, Foundation Relations serves as the U-M “front door” for non-profit engagement.

Business Engagement Center: ORSP often works closely with the Business Engagement Center (BEC) to facilitate Industry funding, with the BEC managing the relationships with industry representatives.
TechTransfer: The Office of Technology Transfer (Tech Transfer) manages matters relating to existing U-M intellectual property and technology.

ORSP: Common origins of ORSP project involvement include:

  • PI discussions with a Sponsor
  • Response to a Sponsor RFP
  • BEC or Foundation Relations discussions with a Sponsor

In summary, for questions on:
Administrative compliance: Please direct questions to the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP) at (734) 764-5500 or

Data Sharing or DUAs: Please contact your Project Representative.