Service Contracts & Agreements

What do I need before I can begin?

Prior to submitting a Service Contracts Questionnaire, consult your Division’s Guidelines on Contracts to determine who is authorized to sign service agreements on behalf of the University. Seek approval from that signatory, typically your academic unit/division head (Chair, Dean, Director) or Chief Administrative Officer.


Under a service contract, well-defined work is conducted on a pay-for-service model. A primary goal of a ‘service’ activity is to apply existing knowledge towards a particular problem or to generate data of limited application. This may include the use of established testing protocols, analytical services, or existing research tools (without material modification), or the application of expertise aimed at achieving a specific outcome. In all instances, the scope and nature of the proposed work is largely defined by the client/sponsor. Typically, there will be no expectation that the project activities will generate patentable inventions or that the project outcomes would be publishable in peer-reviewed journals. Funds received through a service contract are administered by the academic division which undertakes the project. All service contracts must abide by the policies and procedures of U of T.


The Innovations and Partnerships Office (IPO) can assist in the legal review of service contracts and act as an information resource to the U of T community. Service contracts, along with relevant documentation, can be submitted for review using the process outlined below.

Email IPO at Please provide the following in your email.

  1. Reference ‘Service Contracts’ in the subject line
  2. Attach the completed Service Contracts and Agreements: Project Summary Questionnaire
  3. Attach the agreement provided by the sponsor, if available
  4. Clearly indicate if IPO is required to draft the agreement

Who Can Approve a Service Agreement

Each division’s Guideline on Contracts will specify who is authorized to approve and sign service agreements on behalf of U of T, as Principal Investigator’s are not authorized to legally bind the University. In most instances, the academic unit/division’s head or Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) will be the authorized signatory, however some agreements may involve activities, terms, and/or conditions which will require Provostial approval. Please consult with your Chair, Dean, Director, Business Officer or CAO for additional information.

Service Agreements vs Research Agreements

Under a service contract, well-defined work is conducted on a pay-for-service model. In contrast, in sponsored research, the scope of work, project plan, and budget are primarily defined by the principal investigator. In sponsored research, the goal is to advance knowledge in the field and the public dissemination of results. Funds received for sponsored research activities are administered through a restricted research account.

Considerations for Hiring Student Researchers

Student involvement in service agreements should be limited as the work is typically unrelated to their thesis work. Service agreements may give ownership of deliverables to the sponsor and contain restrictions on publications and ownership, which could impede a student’s ability to progress academically.

Work Involving Human Participants or Animal Subjects

Projects that require institutional ethics approvals are generally held in a restricted research fund.  These projects would follow the process for review and signature of research contracts, with submission of the agreement through the My Research Application (MRA) system.

Forms & Downloads


  • Review service contracts and provide feedback on the terms of the agreement
  • Ensure the agreement is consistent with University policies and guidelines

VPRI Contact


Other Resources