University of Southern California


Submitting and Negotiating Sponsored Agreements through DCG for Corporate and Foundation Research

Corporations and foundations provide opportunities for supporting research projects that are focused on meeting important needs, often for the benefit of society. The university encourages investigators to seek out funding from these sources.

Compared to governmental funding, these sources generally have less formal procedures. The proposal process is sometimes initiated by a contact or conversation between a university investigator and an employee of the corporation or foundation, rather than a call for proposals. Despite the informality of how these proposals are initiated, corporate and foundation research agreements require even closer attention than typical government agreements, because the terms requested by the sponsor often differ from what the university will accept.

Applicability of this Document

The following steps apply to corporate and foundation research funding through the Department of Contracts and Grants (DCG). Industry sponsored clinical trials, which are awarded through the Clinical Trials Office, follow a similar, but separate, process. Also, gifts are not processed by DCG, but these are strictly limited to situations where the sponsor receives no IP and no deliverables or tangible products from the university.

Steps for Proposal Submission, Negotiation and Award

1. Proposal Preparation

Investigators (e.g. faculty) may communicate with sponsors in advance of formally submitting a proposal, to discuss technical content and potential scope of work. Such informal communication (which may include a letter of intent to submit a proposal, inquiry, phone conversation or meeting) does not require involvement from DCG. However, investigators should follow processes established within their own schools. On the other hand:
The investigator should not attempt to negotiate terms and conditions of an agreement (e.g., IP terms or publication rights), and should not submit a project budget through informal channels.

2. School Review and Approval

When you are ready to submit your proposal, use the same channel as you normally use for government sponsored agreements. Working with a research administrator (in your school, department or center), prepare your technical proposal, including a statement of work. Ask your research administrator to prepare a budget and to submit the proposal through TARA. The standard financial terms (including overhead and fringe rates) for corporate and foundation sponsors are no different than for government sponsors, with the exception of industry sponsored clinical trials. Reduction from standard costs or rates requires approval by your dean (or dean delegate), and are treated as an exception based on strong justification.

3. Submitting Your Proposal

DCG is responsible for submitting your proposal to the sponsor. When your proposal is submitted, it will be accompanied by our standard terms and conditions, unless the sponsor has already provided its own standard agreement.

4. Negotiation of Agreement

If the sponsor would like to make an award subject to terms and conditions that are different from what the university normally offers, then DCG will enter into negotiations with the sponsor. Deviations require consideration of the totality of the agreement, taking into consideration:

5. Award and Account Set-up

Your DCG administrator is authorized to sign a corporate or foundation agreement once acceptable terms are negotiated. DCG’s goal is to establish accounts within two days of when an agreement is signed by both the university and the sponsor, subject to all needed regulatory approvals (such as IRB, CIRC or IACUC). To expedite account set-up, investigators are encouraged to initiate all regulatory approvals during proposal review or negotiation phase.

Sequence and Timing:

  1. Proposal Preparation: Can occur at any time.
  2. School Review and Approval: At least one week prior to submitting proposal to sponsor.
  3. Submitting Your Proposal: Prior to the deadline that you provide to DCG, and within three business days of when signed submitted through TARA.
  4. Negotiation of Award: Begins after DCG receives notice of award, budget and full proposal, and verifies school approval via TARA. DCG seeks to minimize negotiation time.
  5. Award and Account Set-Up: Generally within two days of signed agreement, approved detailed budget and regulatory approvals.

Investigators are strongly discouraged from participating in negotiations, unless specifically requested by DCG. Attempts to intervene or circumvent negotiation usually create delays. However, if negotiations seem to be protracted, do not hesitate to contact your administrator within DCG to discuss possible resolutions, and to develop a coordinated strategy.

To minimize negotiation time, please be sure that only DCG submits your proposal to the sponsor.