Setting up a Subcontract

A subcontract is needed when a PI has identified an entity (at another institution) that will conduct some of the research, or contracted work, on a funded project. For example, a subcontract would be setup if a $500,000 award from NSF was awarded to Professor Jones (SF State), and $50,000 was needed to pay for work done by Professor Smith (at UCSC), for that work. In most cases, subcontracts are written into proposals and would be approved by the agency via the budget included in the award notification. In the event that a subcontract is not pre-approved by the funding agency, check with your GA to find out if it can be added later (noting that agency approval must be granted).

  • When a need for a subcontract has been identified on an award, the PI should contact their GA to discuss and provide the GA with their colleague's contact information at the other university. The GA verifies that the subcontract is allowed on the project.
  • The GA reviews the budget for the subcontract (usually included in the awarded/funded budget), then forwards it to the ORSP Grants Support Coordinator (GSC), who is the primary contract for subcontract setup.
  • If a Scope of Work has not already been provided, the GSC will contact the PI on the subcontract to acquire a copy; the SF State PI may want to assist in this process.
  • ORSP sets up the agreement, sends courtesy copies to both the subcontracted and SF State PIs, and sends the agreement to the contracts & grants office at the subcontracted PI's institution for them to execute.
  • The SF State PI will typically have little involvement in the subcontract agreement after this point, as most contact will take place between the GSC and the subcontracted PI's contracts & grants office.
  • The SF State PI and the subcontracted PI will collaborate on the work for the project, as outlined in the Scope of Work that was approved by the funder.

Check list for Sub-recipient vs. Professional Service/Vendor determination


  • If the entity being subcontracted is programmatically involved with your project (not just providing a service), you will need to be aware of SF State's Subrecipient Monitoring requirements
  • If the SF State PI is being subcontracted to collaborate on research by a colleague at another institution, this is viewed as a regular award by ORSP and is setup in a similar fashion to regular awards granted to ORSP.