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Equipment purchased or built with sponsored project funds may be subject to a number of Federal and State of Illinois regulations, along with any related terms the sponsor includes in the award. Below are definitions for types of equipment.  Please keep in mind an item may fit multiple definitions due to the source of funds used to purchase the item.


Federal Equipment (Uniform Guidance)

Equipment means tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than one year and a per-unit acquisition cost which equals or exceeds the lesser of the capitalization level established by the non-Federal entity for financial statement purposes, or $5,000. 


  • General Purpose Equipment

Equipment which is not limited to research, medical, scientific or other technical activities. Examples include office equipment and furnishings, modular offices, telephone networks, information technology equipment and systems, air conditioning equipment, reproduction and printing equipment, and motor vehicles.

  1. Information Technology Systems computing devices, ancillary equipment, software, firmware, and similar procedures, services (including support services), and related resources.
  2. Computing Devices = machines used to acquire, store, analyze, process, and publish data and other information electronically, including accessories (or "peripherals") for printing, transmitting and receiving, or storing electronic information
  • Special Purpose Equipment

Equipment which is used only for research, medical, scientific, or other technical activities. Examples of special purpose equipment include microscopes, x-ray machines, surgical instruments, and spectrometers.

Fabricated Equipment

An item that is fabricated or made within the University for which the components parts and labor directly associated (such as machine shop or F & S labor, 3rd party vendor labor if discernable) with the construction of the item that is not available elsewhere.  When the item is place into service, a total cost of $1,000-$4,999 will be controlled equipment.  Fabricated equipment and labor reaching the threshold of $5,000 will be capitalized per University policy. Salary and wages of; Principal Investigators, key personnel, Post-doctoral students and graduate student researchers who participate in the fabrication of the piece are not consider labor and should not be included with the value of the item.

  • Acquisition Cost

Per §200.1, the cost of the asset including the cost to ready the asset for its intended use. Acquisition cost for equipment, for example, means that net invoice price of the equipment, including the cost of any modifications, attachments, accessories, or auxiliary apparatus necessary to make it usable for the purpose for which it is acquired. Acquisition costs for software includes those development costs capitalized in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Ancillary charges, such as taxes, duty, protective in transit insurance, freight, and installation may be included in or excluded from the acquisition cost in accordance with the non-Federal entity's regular accounting practices.

Non-Federal Sponsor Equipment 

Review agreement for guidance on value threshold, approval expectations and ownership after the project is complete.  If not defined specifically by the sponsor, the University definition should supersede.  Private sponsor titled equipment must be completely funded by the sponsor.

University Equipment

The University definition of equipment is a non-expendable, non-consumable, tangible item with a value of $1,000 or more or is an addition, improvement or modification to an existing piece of equipment which increases the productivity or the useful life of the equipment. All firearms, vehicles, antiques, and items of historic treasure must be inventoried and tracked as controlled equipment regardless of cost. Equipment does not include nonexpendable, tangible property delivered to a sponsor under the terms of a sponsored agreement, repairs and maintenance or software.

Maintenance and Repair Costs (§200.452)


Costs incurred for utilities, insurance, security, necessary maintenance, janitorial services, repair, or upkeep of buildings and equipment (including Federal property unless otherwise provided for) which neither add to the permanent value of the property nor appreciably prolong its intended life, but keep it in an efficient operating condition, are allowable. Costs incurred for improvements which add to the permanent value of the buildings and equipment or appreciably prolong their intended life must be treated as capital expenditures (see §200.439). These costs are only allowable to the extent not paid through rental or other agreements.

Capital Expenditures (§200.439)


Capital expenditures for improvements to land, buildings, or equipment which materially increase their value or useful life are unallowable as a direct cost except with the prior written approval of the Federal awarding agency, or pass-through entity.


  • General Purpose Equipment

Capital expenditures for general purpose equipment, buildings, and land are unallowable as direct charges, except with the prior written approval of the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity.

  • Special Purpose Equipment

Capital expenditures for special purpose equipment are allowable as direct costs, provided that items with a unit cost of $5,000 or more have the prior written approval of the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity.

For additional definitions and categories, please refer to


Know the Basics

Ownership – In most cases, title of the equipment will vest to the University (State of Illinois). However, Federal sponsors may require retaining ownership. *In general, equipment purchased on Department of Energy National Lab awards vests with the lab and/or funding agency. Departments are responsible for identifying these situations and contacting SPA to obtain a Federal Property tag.

Responsibility – At Illinois, the various colleges, departments and units are responsible for the custody and use of all assets.

Availability – The University encourages units to make equipment available for use on other sponsored projects as long as this doesn’t interfere with the work for which it was acquired. The sponsor award may include additional restrictions.

Record Keeping – Equipment records should be maintained to make sure assets are not lost, stolen or damaged. Accurate records also ensure proper accounting and reporting for both Federal and State regulations.

If equipment needed to perform the awarded work is destroyed or stolen during the period of performance, it must be replaced by the unit unless the sponsor grants specific approval to charge the replacement cost to the project. Please note that the University does not automatically insure either purchased or fabricated equipment.


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