College of Engineering / Offices / Business Office / Award Process

Award Process

Faculty, Departments, Engineering Business Office, and Sponsored Programs may all receive awards for external funding.  Once the contract or award document arrives, the process for setting up the award begins.

 1) Negotiating the Agreement

The administrative process for awards begins in the Office of Sponsored Programs(OSP). The award document, or agreement, is matched to the appropriate proposal. If the award document does not require University signature (e.g., most federal grants), then the paperwork to establish a Fund is initiated and forwarded to the Office of Contracts and Grants Accounting (CGA) to create the Fund. If the award instrument requires University signature, or if specific terms or conditions are involved (e.g., contracts, some purchase orders), Sponsored Programs will review and negotiate terms directly with the sponsor.

The process for industry sponsored awards begins in the Office on Innovation Advancement and Commercialization (IAC). Negotioations with industry or private sector sponsors can lead to time delays in processing a new contract. Companies frequently include contract terms in their agreements that are problematic in terms of University policy and State law. Reaching mutually satisfactor arrangements in our partnership with industry can be challenging, given our different missions. Contentious issues include publication constraints, confidentiality clauses, intellectual property rights, indeminification, liability and insurance issues, arbitration clauses, governing law, and currency exchange. Investigators should understand the University's position on these issues before they begin discussions with prospective sponsors.


Tools and Tips:

Auburn utilizes four (4) agreement templates that include acceptable terms and conditions.  They are the fixed price research agreement, fixed price research services agreement, fixed price technical agreement and the cost reimbursable research agreement.  If you choose to use one of these, please check with EBO to confirm you are using the correct template for the proposed work.

Principal Investigators may negotiate directly with the sponsors regarding the scope of work to be conducted. However, Investigators may not negotiate any other terms.

All contracts should contain a property title clause, even if the proposed budget does not include equipment. This will prevent a problem should equipment be purchased during the life of the contract. The standard University property clause states, "Upon termination of the Agreement, any equipment, material, or supplies remaining in stock will become the property of the University."


 2) Signing the Agreement

If the sponsor's signature is present on the agreement and if there are no changes to the agreement, OSP or IAC will sign for the University, forwarding one original, fully executed agreement to the sponsor, with a copy to the department. If changes to the contract are required, OSP or IAC will work directly with the sponsor to address the changes before signing the contract. If the terms of the agreement are standard, the Office of Sponsored Programs will sign the documents, generally within 1-3 business days.

Principal Investigators are not authorized to sign agreements on behalf of the University.


3) Setting Up The Fund 

OSP sends the signed agreement along with a fully-signed Auburn University Cover Form for Extramural Programs, budget, journal voucher, and indirect cost distribution form to CGA to create a fund and notify the Principal Investigator and departmental administrator of the new Fund number.   

CGA considers the Principal Investigator’s tight technical schedule once a project is awarded and does its best to minimize the amount of time it takes to set up a Fund to allow for expenditures. CGA established the new Fund number in the Banner system after receiving the documentation from OSP.

Anticipation The University does not have formal authority to incur costs against a grant or contract until a fully executed award document is in place. However, there are times when the award documents are late and the Principal Investigator needs to begin spending before the award document is fully executed. Charging another sponsored project account for costs associated with a pending award is not allowed. Instead, when the award documents are late and the investigator knows that the University will accept the terms of the award, e.g., standard Federal grants, it is appropriate for the investigator to request that a Fund be established on anticipation. Establishing a Fund on anticipation is not appropriate if the University and sponsor have not completed negotiation of unacceptable terms of a contract.


4) Fund Management 

Each sponsored project Fund in Banner is assigned to a Principal Investigator as the responsible person. The Principal Investigator may delegate some of the duties associated with financial management of the Fund to a business manager. However, the Principal Investigator assumes full responsibility for all activity on the Fund.

The Principal Investigator is responsible for ensuring that all disbursements from the Fund are:

  • for the bona fide purpose of the account;
  • allowable per the terms of the award
  • authorized in accordance with University policies, State and Federal laws and regulations;
  • charged to the appropriate account code; and
  • fall within the available funding for the Fund.

The Principal Investigator is responsible for ensuring that:

  • the Fund is reconciled on a timely basis
  • immediate action is taken to resolve the errors or discrepancies noted during the report reconciliation and to follow up to ensure that errors are corrected

My Funding, a tab within the Self-Service Banner Application in AU Access, is a dashboard that displays real-time financial data on external contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements. It provides faculty and staff live and historical financial data for an individual’s external support, facilities and administrative cost recovery details, advanced search functions, and the ability to download relevant financial information as needed.