How to Share Funds with Co-Investigators: Sub-grants

What do I need before I can begin?

  • Review and understand the sponsor’s requirements for transferring a portion of research funds to a co-investigator. Some sponsors have a great deal of flexibility while others do not
  • Check My Research On Line (MROL) to ensure sufficient funds are available to accommodate the fund transfer for the required period of time
  • Direct any questions to the Research Officer listed in the header section of the relevant University of Toronto Research Account (UTRAC)


Principal Investigators (PIs) may wish to share a portion of their research funding to a 'co-investigator' for collaboration on a funded project. Co-investigators are other PIs who will participate in scientific direction and activities of the project with the PI.

The sponsor must permit this kind of funding transfer.

Transferring funds to a co-investigator at another institution is commonly known as establishing a sub-grant, but this arrangement can also be known as a sub-award or an inter-institutional agreement (IIA).

Regardless of the terminology, transferring funds to co-applicants must happen through a formal sub-grant agreement between the University of Toronto (U of T) and the institution where the co-investigator is located. The sub-grant agreement process is facilitated by your contact within the Research Services Office (RSO) or Innovations and Partnerships Office (IPO).

For more details on U of T’s policies regarding the negotiation and execution of research funding agreements and awards, please see Who Can Negotiate Research & Innovation Agreements and Who Can Sign Research and Innovation Agreements.


The PI needs to contact RSO or IPO staff with a request to initiate or update a sub-grant agreement.

If the sub-grant is issued from a research award that is governed by an agreement between U of T and the sponsor, that agreement is referred to as the 'Primary Agreement' for the purposes of the sub-grant agreement.

Most sponsors require that co-investigator(s) be identified at the application stage or when the ‘Primary Agreement’ is finalized. To add or make changes to co-investigators covered by the funding, refer to the University of Toronto Research Account (UTRAC) for details on the required steps, or reach out to the Research Officer listed in the header section of the UTRAC for guidance.

After receiving the PI’s request, RSO or IPO staff will draft the agreement and interact with counterparts at the co-investigator’s institution. Once the agreement is fully executed, the co-investigator can begin to incur expenses for their share of the funding.

What You Need to Know

Please review the following key details about sub-grant agreements.

  • In some cases, the PI is free to transfer as much of the funding to a co-investigator as needed. In other cases, the amount intended for the co-investigator(s) is defined in the Primary Agreement, and any changes to those amounts require the sponsor’s approval first. Be sure to understand the rules that affect changes to transfer amounts
  • Sub-grant agreements normally include the same terms and conditions for the co-investigator and their institution as does the Primary Agreement or the award between the sponsor and U of T. This ensures U of T can meet the sponsor’s expectations
  • There may be disagreement about some terms and conditions in the sub-grant agreement drafted for your co-investigator. Your RSO or IPO contact will negotiate a solution where possible, keeping the PI in the loop and seeking input where required as the negotiation process unfolds
  • The way the co-investigator’s institution receives the funds will vary depending on the Primary Agreement or the award between U of T and the sponsor.
    • In some cases, the co-investigator’s institution will prepare invoices covering specified periods of time for the actual costs incurred. The PI will receive the invoice, seek clarification if need be, and once satisfied, approve it for payment by the Business Officer
    • In other cases, the sponsor will permit U of T to send funds in advance of spending. A staff member within the Division of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI) can arrange for a funds transfer to occur once the sub-grant agreement or amendment has been signed by both institutions
  • Discuss the timing of progress reports or any other forms or documents needed from the co-investigator with your RSO or IPO contact. Due dates can be put into the sub-grant, which will enable the PI and U of T to meet our reporting requirements to the sponsor on time. Beyond progress reports, the University is normally obligated to file regular financial reports with the sponsor concerning the fund, and the reports must consolidate the financial activity at sub-grantee sites

Cross-appointments at an Affiliated Hospital

When applying for research funding, the PI must submit their proposal through the institution where the majority of the research activity ('location of research') is taking place. If it is at a hospital, then the PI should apply through and receive the research funding at the hospital. If the research activity will take place at U of T, then the PI should apply through and receive the research funding at U of T.

In some cases, sponsors do not permit applications for funding from hospitals (e.g. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada). Under these circumstances, the PI may apply through U of T even when the work will be occurring at the hospital. RSO or IPO staff can then arrange to transfer the funds to the hospital through a sub-grant agreement. However, this practice is only permitted when the sponsor has limitations on applications from hospitals or health care institutions.

Forms & Downloads


  • Facilitate, finalize and execute all sub-grant agreements
  • Formally authorize research funding agreements or award letters

VPRI Contact

Find the appropriate VPRI staff member to assist you by checking our staff directory. You may search by discipline area (e.g. Social Sciences, Health & Life Sciences, Natural Sciences or Engineering, etc.) or funding agency name.



Other Resources