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Awards or sponsored agreements are the formal mechanisms through which sponsors engage with Northwestern University to provide research funding.  In many cases, sponsors incorporate a standard set of terms and conditions in their agreements (e.g., Federal Demonstration Partnership sponsors).

Award Notices

An award notice is a document issued by the sponsor that typically contains information about the amount of funds obligated, the time period for performance, and the terms and conditions associated with the award. An award notice, called variously a Notice of Award (NOA) or Notice of Grant Award (NGA or NOGA), is ordinarily sent to Sponsored Research (SR) as the authorized university office to receive and accept award notices on behalf of the university. If a Principal Investigator receives an NOA directly, it is to be forwarded to the SR awards mailbox at

Bilateral Awards and Award Agreements

Awards come to Northwestern that require central office review and endorsement. Others require negotiation prior to endorsement. SR’s Proposal and Award Acceptance team is responsible for this activity.

Sponsored Research Awards vs. Gifts

The following chart outlines the main differences between sponsored research agreements and gifts:

Table of Sponsored Research Awards vs. Gifts criteria

Sponsored Research Awards


  • May be awarded following a researcher’s response to a request for proposal
  • Will be issued as a contract or grant
  • Includes specific terms and conditions (e.g., intellectual property, publication), scope of work, and/or deliverables
  • Includes budgets (detailed or high-level) with defined funding periods
  • Requires financial reports, progress reports, and/or audit requirements
  • May require teaming, non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements
  • May include compliance such human or animal subjects
  • May be given following a researcher’s response to a request for proposal 
  • Will be issued as a gift (usually as a letter) 
  • Does not include terms and conditions for acceptance or require a specific scope of work, deliverable(s), or project activity 
  • Does not include budgeting terms or conditions for payment 
  • Does not request or require financial reporting, progress reports, and/or audits 
  • Does not require teaming, non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements
  • Does not include compliance such as human or animal subjects 

When a private industry partner wants to give funds to a Northwestern faculty member for unspecified purposes, the gift must meet the above terms. Funding that does not meet the criteria for a gift funding would be considered a sponsored award and subject to institutional requirements for sponsored awards.