Proposal Submission Overview
New to Grants and Contracts?
How it Works: An Overview
Grants and contracts are simply two of the most common mechanisms for transferring money from an external sponsor (e.g., the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Department of Education, Hewlett-Packard) to the University to support a “Sponsored Project.”
A sponsored project is a short term activity typically lasting from one to five years (depending on the sponsor’s policy). Sponsored projects may be renewed and continue for a longer period, but there is always an end date. The funds provided by the sponsor also are limited to a certain amount. The sponsor may choose to give additional funds over time, but typically there is a finite amount of funding provided for a sponsored project.
The University receives grants and contracts from government, non-profit as well as industry and business sponsors. Some sponsors give money for just one purpose. Other sponsors give money to support a number of sponsor interests. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has hundreds of funding programs to support various areas of science.
The thing that must be understood is that the sponsor expects something in return for their funding support. The sponsor’s funds are not “gifts” with no strings attached. The bottom line is that the sponsor is providing its funds to the University with the expectation that the University (through work carried out by University faculty, staff and students) will help the sponsor accomplish its goals.
The University only agrees to participate in a sponsored project when the sponsor and the University have the same goals. The most common reasons that the University accepts outside funding is to help faculty, staff, and students engage in sponsored projects that support one or more of the three missions of the University: Research, Instruction, and Public Service related to Research and Instruction.
When the sponsor and the University have similar goals a sponsored project can result and both the sponsor and the University can benefit from the result. However, it is important to understand that the only legal “relationship” that exists is between the sponsor and the University. The award is not made to the PI or the PI’s department. The people at the University involved in the sponsored project as a Principal Investigator (PI), Co Principal Investigator (Co-PI), or other key personnel may write the proposal that attracts the sponsor and they may be critical to the success of the project, but the sponsor awards the funds to the Regents of the University of California, on behalf of its Santa Cruz.