When a PI Leaves SFU

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A Principal Investigator (PI) who is leaving SFU must review sponsor guidelines to determine what changes may need to be made to active research projects.

The typical options include

  • Transfer an active research project with the lead PI to a new institution
  • Transfer the research project to another SFU eligible PI, and notify Research Services of the change in Investigator and process appropriate paperwork to enact the change
  • Terminate the project and return unspent funds to the sponsor
  • If the leaving faculty member is a Co-PI, the lead PI should provide guidance to the SFU department/Faculty and Research Services regarding how/if the leaving faculty member will continue working on the project.

Transferring an Active Project to a New Institution

Each sponsor has different procedures regarding transferring a grant to a new institution, and rules and regulations on grant transfers vary on a case-by-case basis.

A PI who is leaving SFU and desires to transfer an active research project to a new institution must determine if a transfer is permissible as per sponsor requirements. If transfer is permissible, follow the process below to transfer the active project to the new institution.

  • Step 1: The PI informs Research Services of desire to transfer an active project to a new institution and obtains permission from sponsor to do so. The following information should be shared with Research Services.
    • Name of the new institution
    • Final date of employment at SFU and effective date of transfer
    • Plans for transfer, or necessary changes to the active research project
    • Most sponsors will require a brief summary of progress to date and description of work accomplished.
    • Amounts of funds to be transferred. It will be necessary to stop initiating charges to the project account, as all outstanding charges must be identified prior to making the transfer request. The PI must review all expenditures to assure appropriate allocation of expenses in preparation of the closeout.
    • Contact information for a departmental staff person or sponsored program staff person at the new institution
  • Step 2: The PI is responsible for initiating the transfer process. To begin, the PI contacts the sponsor for procedures to transfer award to the new institution and communicate the transfer procedures and documents to Research Services.
  • Step 3: Research Services works with the PI to submit the relinquishing paperwork to the sponsor.
  • Step 4: The sponsor sends Research Services revised award document to change period of performance and de-obligate remaining funds per the relinquishing.
  • Step 5: The PI must prepare and timely submit all required progress or technical reports to the sponsor. Research Accounting will prepare and submit all final financial reports to the sponsor.
  • Step 6: When all expenses clear, Research Services releases cheque or returns unspent funds to the sponsor and closes out  the project.

Transfer may take longer than anticipated in order to coordinate with the sponsor, Department/Faculty, and new institution. Therefore, it is best to begin the process as soon as possible. 


Research Services will terminate any sub-awards dependent on the transferring funds. Research Accounting will work with sub-awardees to ensure that all required reports are returned into Research Services.

Research Equipment

Based on SFU Policy A 30.08, equipment purchased from external funds or with university funds (including internal research funds) belongs to SFU. This equipment will remain with the university and the leaving PI will not transfer it to a new institution.

Equipment purchased with funds from a Canadian granting Council or research contract, may be transferred to another Canadian university when a PI leaves SFU provided that the equipment is not necessary for the research activities of other researchers at SFU. Otherwise, the equipment will remain at SFU. Please check the procedure of transferring research equipment to another Canadian institution.