VIU Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity

Contracts vs. grants

What is the difference between a research grant and contract?

The lines blur between the two, but generally:


Refers to funds that are awarded to the recipient to enable the performance of self-directed research without contractual obligation for performance.

You likely applied for a grant if:

  • the funding is not tied to specific outcomes
  • there is no transfer of results to the sponsor
  • there is no funding for the principal investigator’s time
  • intellectual property is treated in accordance with VIU’s policies and practices


Refers to funds that are assigned for research purposes through a legally enforceable agreement which may include specific terms governing the conduct, direction and scheduling of the tasks to be performed; designating ownership of proprietary rights to the research results; laying out the financial regimen to be followed; and other restrictions required by the research sponsor.

 A contract is required if:

  • there is a set budget and payment schedule based on deliverables; and/or
  • there are discussions around confidentiality, intellectual property ownership, or liability