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Unfunded Agreement Types

A contract or an agreement involves a promise, or set of promises, for which the performance is recognized as a legal obligation. Each contract document contains a performance obligation such as a statement of work or a description of the services to be provided. The obligation should be drafted with great care, for failure by the University or contractor to deliver the results promised, or to perform what is defined in the statement of work, is a breach of contract.

Contracts and agreements are processed as "unfunded agreements" or UFAs because there is no external funding support associated with them. UFAs are integrated into the eResearch Proposal Management system (eRPM) to create a record of the agreement in the university system and to allow the research community to more easily link corresponding agreements, monitor the status of UFAs, and communicate with administrative home and central offices.

Following are types of UFAs and who handles them. All are legal contracts between two parties.

Good to know: 

  • ORSP Project Representatives (PRs) need to know whether a principal investigator (PI) has reviewed and agreed to the activities described in the UFA or PAF before attempting to negotiate the associated agreement. 
  • ORSP will return any UFA or PAF for a contract if the PI signature is missing from the UFA or PAF record.
  • Once approved and signed by the PI, ORSP will review and negotiate the agreement and have it signed on behalf of the University. 
  • Faculty, chairs, and departmental administrators do not have the authority to sign these agreements on behalf of the University. Please work with ORSP.  

Please also see our Standard Templates and Agreements for Download.

Type of Agreement Description Handled by

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

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A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) ensures that certain information disclosed in discussions are kept confidential and are only used for the limited purposes defined in the NDA. NDAs can also be referred to as confidentiality agreements (CA), or proprietary information agreements (PIA).

Looking for a sample NDA? Visit our Standard Agreements and Templates page.

Additional information regarding NDAs is here. Information regarding the Michigan Freedom of Information Act is here. Michigan FOIA. Also see the U-M Research Ethics and Compliance policy on the Research Integrity  for further guidelines regarding acceptance and use of confidential information.

  • ORSP negotiates and signs NDAs that are primarily related to research or research agreements.
  • The U-M Tech Transfer negotiates and signs NDAs that are primarily related to technology transfer, including potential licenses and options of U-M patents and software.
  • Where discussions with another party relate to both potential research or tech transfer, either ORSP or U-M Tech Transfer may handle it, but should depend upon which activity resulting from the confidential discussions is more prevalent or likely. 

Data Use Agreements (DUAs)

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A DUA is needed any time there will be a transfer of data, a dataset or software that is non-public or is otherwise subject to restrictions on its use, a DUA may or may not consist of human subject data. Examples of DUAs include:

  • Data sharing agreements
  • Data license agreements
  • Access agreements
  • Business Associate Agreements (BAA)

Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs)

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Use an MTA when sending or receiving physical materials or software to/from a non-U-M entity. 

For further information about MTAs, please refer to the U-M Tech Transfer MTA website.

Other Agreements

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This category is a catchall for UFAs that do not fall into the above categories. Examples include:

  • Teaming agreements  
  • Memoranda of understanding
  • Unfunded collaboration agreements
  • Facility access agreements
  • Visiting researcher agreements
  • Vehicle and equipment loan agreements
  • International research agreements

With the following exception, ORSP handles all other unfunded agreement types. 

  • Unfunded international agreements meant to formalize institutional relationships between U-M and a foreign institution or governmental entity (e.g., international education or affiliation agreements, student mobility programs, and visiting scholar arrangements) should be processed through the Office of the Vice Provost for Global and Engaged Education using the process described at Pre-Departure Planning Lists
  • ORSP reviews draft agreements or other award documents and negotiates mutually acceptable terms and conditions, as necessary. This process can take time.


Generally, an unfunded agreement refers to a research-related agreement that does not have incoming dollars attached. U-M faculty researchers often engage in activities or collaborations that do not involve funding from Sponsors. These activities may include preliminary confidential discussions with potential research sponsors, requests for research materials from external sources, or data sharing consortiums. 

Unfunded research activities are generally carried out under written contracts that set out each of the parties’ expectations and specific responsibilities. Coordination of unfunded research activities can be complex, and some may require University approvals for the use of University property, space, faculty effort, students, or compliance committee approvals for protocols involving human or animal subjects. UFAs are integrated into eRPM to allow the research community to more easily link corresponding agreements, monitor the status of UFA agreements, and communicate with administrative home and central offices.


  • Familiar Format - The UFA system functions much like Proposal Approval Forms (PAFs) used to route sponsored research proposals in eRPM. Each type of UFA is an electronic smart form in eRPM (similar to the PAF worksheet) that is used to obtain administrative approval for an unfunded activity.
  • Streamlined Workflow - Research Administrators and Principal Investigators no longer need to identify a central office project representative for UFAs. The UFA system routes your agreement based on smart form input.
  • Paperless - The UFA system uses a smart form that eliminates the need to route paper. There will be no need to complete a material transfer form nor a need to obtain written signatures from the units or schools before submitting the request via eRPM.
  • Broader Visibility and Access - As with PAFs, the approval status, agreement revisions and correspondence will be visible in the record. Track status of approvals, review and monitor negotiation activity, and upload communications and documents directly into the UFA file.
  • Downloadable Templates - In an effort to better serve the research community and save them time and effort, ORSP provides downloadable standard agreement templates.

References and Resources


Contact the Private Sponsors Team with any questions.