researcher at work in the lab

Proposal Development

The key steps and processes for submitting a proposal are outlined below.

Please remember to submit a proposal request through our proposal request system as soon as you plan to submit a proposal so that your research administrator can work with you to start the process.

Proposal Process

Notify Your Research Administrator

Submit your request through our Proposal Request System.

You will need your Penn State Access ID and password, along with 2FA (two-factor) authentication.

OERA Deadlines

Enter Sponsor Deadline (MM/DD/YYYY):  

Your Processing Timeline Due to Pre-Award
1. Initial Notification/Initial Budget  Past Due
2. Final Budget/Budget Justification  Past Due
3. Final Documents Ready for Submission to Sponsor  Past Due

Just a friendly reminder to please follow the below timelines:

Timeline Activity
Minimum of fifteen (15) business days prior to deadline:
Complex proposal
Submit your notification of intent to submit a proposal through the Proposal Request System for a complex proposal, which includes:

  • Subcontract(s) / Subaward(s)
  • Cost Share / Match to be requested
  • PSU Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) involved
  • Detailed Cost Proposals (task- or project-based)
  • Any of these specific sponsors: DARPA, DOE EERE, DOE NEUP, DOE ARPA-E
Minimum of ten (10) business days prior to deadline:
Basic proposal
Submit your notification of intent to submit a proposal through the Proposal Request System for a basic proposal.
Minimum of five (5) business days prior to deadline Budget and Budget Justification in final form.
Minimum of five (5) business days prior to deadline Draft versions of all proposal documents including technical sections.
Minimum of three (3) business days prior to deadline All proposal documents in final form.

  • If received by the stated deadline, your documents will receive a full compliance review.
  • If received after the stated deadline (but prior to the day of the deadline), your documents will receive a minimal review and you accept the risk of non-compliance.
  • If received later than 6:00 a.m. the morning of the deadline, your proposal will not be submitted.

Note that the applicable deadline referenced above is the date the Penn State proposal package is due. In some cases that is the prime sponsor deadline; in others, it is the date the lead organization requires a subaward proposal from us.

** In order to provide a fair and consistent high level of service to all faculty members, the deadlines stated above must be strictly enforced.

**Weekdays when the University is officially closed (i.e. Penn State holidays or closures) do not count towards the minimum business days required per the deadline table above.


  1. These deadlines also pertain to renewals, white papers, concept papers, and pre-proposals that require submission by an authorized official.
  2. If you plan to submit an internal grant proposal that requires a detailed budget, please submit a proposal request to OERA and adhere to the deadlines above.

Proposals with No Deadline

If your proposal does not have a hard deadline (such as NSF ENG Directorate core programs), please include your estimated deadline in the proposal request. If you delay the submission of a proposal beyond the estimated deadline, please be aware the processing deadlines stated above will still be applicable. Depending on the OERA workload at the time, the coordinator may require additional time to process the proposal.

OERA Business Hours

OERA is open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office closes at 5:00 p.m., regardless of any proposal deadlines that are listed in the solicitation. Therefore, proposals must be received by OERA in time to submit by 5:00 p.m. on the day of the deadline (as noted above), even when the sponsor deadline is in a different time zone or is later than 5:00 p.m.

Please remember that when the University is officially closed, OERA is not available to work on or submit a proposal.

Read the Solicitation

Read the solicitation carefully to make sure you are responding appropriately to the sponsor’s guidelines. Important items to note in a solicitation include:

  • Deadlines
  • Submission method (i.e., electronic, paper, etc.)
  • Restrictions (i.e., no foreign travel, no salary, etc.)
  • Required documents
  • Eligibility (i.e., only open to new faculty, only open to multi-institution collaborations, etc.)
  • Sponsor contact information

Be aware of certain terms that may require special consideration. The following are some examples of items that should be discussed with your assigned coordinator.

  • Export Controls
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Intellectual Property/Ownership of Results
  • Publication Restrictions

Plan the Project

  • Identify your project team
  • Develop a budget and budget justification with your research administrator. The proposal budget is driven by the needs of the project and guidelines of the solicitation. Remember to consult federal, sponsor, and solicitation guidelines for allowable costs and any restrictions.
  • Initiate subaward process (if applicable)
  • Initiate cost-share process (if applicable)

Prepare the Proposal Documents

The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for preparing all scientific elements of the proposal.

The Research Administrator, in collaboration with the Principal Investigator and key personnel, is responsible for preparing all administrative elements of the proposal. These include:

  • Budget and budget justification
  • Biographical sketches
  • Current and pending documents
  • Facilities, equipment, and other resources
  • Any other documents that are required from your specific proposal solicitation

The Coordinator will create an IAF record (Penn State’s internal sponsored research system). All sponsored research proposals, regardless of submission method, need to be entered and routed through IAF prior to the submission to the sponsor.

Obtain Administrative Approvals

  • Proposals are routed through the IAF for approval. Approvals needed are the Principal Investigator, department chair, and Dean’s Office.
  • Conflict of Interest disclosures must be updated in the IAF. Contact your coordinator if you have questions.

Finalize Proposal Documents

  • The final scientific documents need to be finalized two business days prior to the proposal deadline.
  • The Research Administrator coordinates with Principal Investigator to prepare final proposal package.

Submit Proposal

  • The Office of Engineering Administration submits the final proposal to the sponoring agency after the proposal has been reviewed and endorsed.

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Proposals including a sub-recipient must include the following documents from the subcontractor:

  • Budget
  • Budget justification
  • Statement of work
  • Letter of intent endorsed by sub-institution; the letter of intent must include total subcontract budget amount, title, and project start and end date
  • Sub-recipient commitment form

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Cost Sharing

Cost sharing refers to the expenditure of University or third-party resources beyond the amount funded by the sponsor to support the scope of work defined by a sponsored award. Get additional information about Penn State’s cost sharing policies.

Process for Obtaining Institutional Cost-Share Support

  1. Notification to OERA through the Proposal Request System.
  2. Our coordinators will gather approvals from department heads and or deans.
  3. Our coordinators will assist in the development of cost share budget, justification, and letter of support.
  4. Generation of official cost share letter of support.

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On this page:

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith
Assistant Director, Lead Pre-Award
112 Hammond Building



The Office of Engineering Research Administration (OERA) serves the research administration needs of faculty and graduate students in the College of Engineering. We are responsible for direct support and assistance to faculty in proposal development, preparation and processing; grant and contract administration; and coordination of activities with University and sponsor offices.

Office of Engineering Research Administration

112 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710