2.1 Overview

The acquisition process initiates the asset life cycle. It begins with the identification of a specific need and concludes with the physical receipt of an item. Through the acquisition process the ownership, accountability, and responsibility are determined for equipment at Stanford. Ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of equipment acquisition transactions rests with the transaction originator and approvers.

Funding for equipment is available from various sources including operating budgets, sponsored projects, and gifts. Equipment for which Stanford is accountable is intended to directly benefit the academic and research mission of the University and enable the associated administrative processes.

The following defines policy and provides guidance and principles to help ensure effective and compliant acquisition of equipment.


Questions about this policy can be answered by:

Dunn, Stan

Associate Director

Property Management Office

(650) 725-0081

To report a broken link or send comments/suggestions about property management content, send email to:


1. Key Policy Statements

  • The capitalization threshold for Stanford-owned equipment is $5,000.
  • Software acquisitions <$500,000 are not capitalized – they are expense items.
  • Title to equipment vests with either the University or with the project sponsor. Title does not reside personally with faculty or staff.
  • Title to gifted or donated equipment vests with Stanford University.
  • Accountability for Stanford-owned equipment resides with the Department.
  • Accountability for equipment on Sponsored Projects resides with the Principal Investigator (PI).
  • The acquiring organization must screen for available items to minimize duplicative acquisitions.
  • Responsibility for accurately coding acquisition transactions for equipment, approving funding sources and documenting allocation methodology rests with the originator and the approvers.

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2. Ownership or Title

Title to equipment is primarily determined by source of funding and/or method of acquisition. The following conditions exist:

  1. Title to equipment purchased or fabricated with unrestricted or other University designated funds will vest with the University at the time of acquisition; it does not vest with individual staff or faculty 

  2. Title to equipment acquired or fabricated with Sponsored Project funds, or provided by the Sponsor is determined by the type of agreement and the specific terms and conditions therein. Title will vest with either the University or the Sponsor; it does not vest with individual staff or faculty. Sponsors may opt to transfer title to equipment when no longer needed for its original intended purpose; if so, written authorization is required from the sponsor and the asset record is adjusted accordingly.

  3. Title to equipment received as a donation or gift to Stanford will vest with Stanford; it does not vest with individual staff or faculty. Please see the section on donations later in this chapter.

Personally-owned items should not be brought onto campus. Should this occur, it must be clearly marked to indicate personal ownership. These items are generally not covered by Stanford’s insurance programs. Please refer to the Office of Risk Management for additional information.

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3. Acquisition Principles

The following guiding principles apply when acquiring equipment/supplies:

  • The acquisition of equipment and or supplies is based on an established need in support of Stanford related business.
  • The acquiring organization must screen for available items to minimize duplicative acquisitions.
  • Acquisitions are allowable, reasonable, allocable, and consistent in accordance with:
    • University Administrative Guide Memo Chapter 5
    • *OMB Circular A-21 (See Note)
    • *OMB Uniform Guidance December 26, 2014 (See Note)
    • FAR 52.245-1
    • Applicable terms and conditions of sponsored agreements
  • Acquisitions are appropriately funded and required approvals obtained in a timely manner.
  • Cost Allocation methodology is documented when multiple PTA's are used to fund a transaction.

*NOTE:  For grants awarded prior to 12/26/2014,  OMB A-110 and OMB A-21 will apply unless the grant has been modified.  For grants awarded on 12/26/2014 or later, OMB A-81 Uniform Guidance will apply.  A-81 will supercede A-110, A-21, A-133 (and others not directly applicable to our property management processes).

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4. Methods of Acquisition

There are a variety of methods by which equipment is acquired at Stanford. The method of acquisition used is determined by factors such as source of funding, type of project, and duration of need. In general order of frequency, acquisition methods are listed below.

Method of Acquisition



Acquisitions made using the Stanford Purchasing systems. Source of funding may vary.


Equipment provided to Stanford, free of charge, by a third party for a specific period of time. Ownership is retained by the lender.


No-Cost Transfer

Equipment to which ownership and accountability is transferred to Stanford by another entity.


Contracts under which a Stanford has committed to pay cash payments for use of an asset (e.g. equipment) for a period greater than one year and total payments of $5,000 or more over the lease period.


Contracts under which Stanford has agreed to cash payments meeting either: 

  1. A payment period greater than one year with less than $5,000 committed
  2. A payment period one year or less, regardless of dollar value


Specialized equipment not commercially available which require design, development, construction, and Stanford labor over a specified period of time. Usually fabricated within the scope of work of a sponsored project. Aggregate cost of components is equal to or greater than $5,000


A gift of equipment to Stanford. No performance expectations associated with the gift.

Sponsor Furnished or

Gov't Furnished

Equipment provided by a sponsor for use on a specific research project. May be provided directly by the sponsor, or via a third party designated by the Sponsor. Ownership usually remains with the sponsor.


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