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Outgoing Subcontracts

subcontract (or subaward) is a formal agreement between Northwestern University (serving as a Pass-through Entity) and a subrecipient under a sponsored program.  The information below applies to outgoing subawards (from Northwestern). Incoming subawards (to Northwestern) are categorized and handled as funded agreements.

Subcontract Processing and Related Information

Status Updates

  • For a view of all pending subcontract requests for your department, run Cognos report GA301.

Processing Procedure for Establishing an Outgoing Subcontract

  1. The sponsored award to Northwestern must be appropriated by Sponsored Research (SR) and the Project Account Summary (PAS) mailing received by the PI, research administrator, department chair or center director, and dean’s office.
  2. In consultation with the PI, the subcontract requestor (most commonly the research administrator) completes and submits a request to issue a new subcontract.
  3. SR conducts subrecipient risk assessment, drafts a subcontract agreement, and issues the agreement to subcontractor via DocuSign for institutional review and signature.
  4. Upon receipt of the partially executed agreement from the subcontractor, SR conducts the final review. Once the review is complete, SR provides the final signature on behalf of Northwestern University, fully executing the subcontract.
  5. The fully executed agreement is distributed via DocuSign to the subcontractor and locally to the SMR  request creator, SR subcontract staff, and ASRSP subcontract staff.
  6. The departmental purchase order requestor works with ASRSP subcontract staff to establish a purchase requisition to encumber subcontract funds obligated in the Fully Executed Agreement (FEA). This step will enable ASRSP to pay subcontract invoices. For more information visit the ASRSP webpage on Subcontracts or contact ASRSP subcontract staff at or

Northwestern’s Use of DocuSign 

Sponsored Research uses DocuSign to manage the subaward issuance and signature process. For each subaward (or amendment) to be issued, SR sends out two emails via DocuSign: the first email includes a subaward agreement for subrecipient institutional review and signature; the second email includes the fully executed agreement. Both the subrecipient and the Northwestern unit that requested the subaward receive these emails and associated documents. ASRSP will also receive a copy of the second email and fully executed agreement.

Note for Northwestern units:  The first email is simply for notification purposes, and no action is required at this point.  However, the second email will require action on your part. Click on the “Action Needed” tab for more information.

Help Resources for Subrecipients

Action Needed for Fully Executed Subcontract Agreements

When you are copied on an email – either directly from Northwestern’s authorized signer or via DocuSign – that includes the attachment of a fully executed subcontract agreement:

  • Funds are now available for the subcontractor to spend
  • Funds must be set aside (encumbered) with a purchase order (PO)

For next steps see: Guidance: Action Needed for Fully Executed Subcontract Agreements

Sponsor Approval and Notice of Award (NOA) Terms

Prior sponsor approval requirements for adding new subcontracts are determined by the prime sponsor award.  For FDP/RTC awards, please refer to the RTC Prior Approval and Other Requirements Matrix.  When a subcontract is not included in the originally approved budget, please work with Sponsored Research to determine if sponsor prior approval is required. [NOTE: Not all sponsors require that the subcontract entity be listed on the NOA.] 

Sufficient Funds Verification

  • Subcontracts team will rely on Unit verification of sufficient funds allocated to subcontract budget lines in NU Financials
  • Units encouraged to attach supporting documentation of sufficient funds verification to subcontract modification requests
  • Subcontracts team will process re-budget in NU Financials if/when Unit:
    • Determines there are insufficient funds and
    • Provides re-budget guidance in CERES
  • Download the sufficient funds verification and rebudgeting tool. Note: The tool is specifically for sufficient funds tracking, calculation, and re-budgeting to allocate funds for outgoing subcontracts to the subcontract budget categories in NU financials and to assist with F&A implications resulting from re-budgeting.

Institutional Information

Primary Contact

Tyra Darville-Layne, Director, Subcontracts Management

Legal Address

Northwestern University
633 Clark Street
Evanston, IL 60208

Administrative Address

Northwestern University
Sponsored Research
750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 7th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 503-7955