Skip to content

Pre-Award Spending

Under limited circumstances, Principal Investigators (PIs) may request authorization to spend funds in support of a sponsored project in advance of receiving a notice of an award from a sponsor. Authorization of pre-award spending is contingent upon the following:

  • An essential need to advance or commit funds prior to the receipt of an award
  • Receipt of a firm commitment by an authorized representative of the sponsor to OSP that an award is forthcoming

Risks, Liabilities, and Limitations

The risks, liabilities, and limitations associated with pre-award spending must be carefully considered prior to requesting authorization to spend funds in advance of receiving the award.

Risks: Whenever the university authorizes pre-award spending, it is risking monetary loss. The PI must identify other funding that must be available to cover the risk of a delayed start date, costs disallowed by the sponsor or failure of the sponsor to make an award as anticipated.

Liabilities: Special care must be exercised in assessing the impact of pre-award spending on the legal obligations of the university prior to requesting or approving pre-award spending. The university must consider the impact of not having a fully executed grant or contract agreement on its legal obligations regarding intellectual property rights, subject injury, indemnification, etc.

Limitations: A sponsor’s policies; the terms and conditions of the anticipated award; and campus policies and practices determine whether pre-award spending or pre-award activities are allowable. Restrictions differ depending on the funding agency and the type of award anticipated (i.e., grant, cooperative agreement, or contract).

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.