Capital Equipment


Stanford defines an asset as capital equipment if it meets all the following three criteria unless otherwise specified by the sponsor terms and conditions.

1.    Cost is $5,000 or greater

2.    Useful life of more than one year, and

3.    Individual, stand-alone, moveable, tangible item

Responsibilities of Key Participants

Key participants in the management of equipment are the PI, the Research Administrator, the Department Property Administrator (DPA), the asset user, and the Property Management Office (PMO) each of which is responsible for the day-to-day management, use, care, record-keeping, and disposal of those assets.

Every department has a Department Property Administrator (DPA) who establishes and maintains property records for their assigned areas. The DPAs provide guidance to department personnel concerning property matters such as acquisition, coordination of transfers, equipment custody, and equipment at sub recipient locations, maintenance, physical inventory, and disposal. DPAs are the school' liaison with the PMO on property related issues. To identify your local DPA, use the DPA DIRECTORY.


The Property Management Office (PMO) is responsible for establishing and overseeing the policies and business processes, and systems used for the control, care, custody, inventory, disposition, and financial reporting of capital equipment, owned and/or otherwise accountable to Stanford University. That office refers to capital equipment as property.

University Property Administrator's (UPAs) serve as liasons between PMO and University schools and departments.  Generally, the UPA will coordinate efforts through the Department Property Administrators (DPAs) in the various offices. Follow this link to locate the UPA for your department.

Types of Equipment

Equipment fabrication

Equipment fabrication: a unique individual piece of equipment, or scientific instrument built by Stanford personnel not a vendor or subcontractor. The completed fabricated product must meet the criteria listed for capital equipment and the fabrication criteria listed in the Property Management Manual 2.6 Fabrication.

General Purpose Equipment

General purpose equipment means equipment  which is not limited to research, medical, scientific or other technical non-scientific equipment example: Examples include office equipment and furnishings, modular offices, telephone networks, information technology equipment and systems, air conditioning equipment, reproduction and printing equipment, it is typically not allowable on federal awards.

Special Purpose Equipment

Special purpose equipment means 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. It is generally allowable on federal awards.

You can find information in the Property Management Manual on  Loans, Transfers, Leases and Rentals of equipment, and Donations and Gifts of equipment. 

Award Terms and Conditions

Always read the award terms and conditions as sponsors may define equipment differently. Verify equipment ownership as well. Review the terms and conditions for required prior approvals and check for other management obligations. It is critical to use the correct Expenditure Types for purchases. View the Frequently Used Expenditure Types Chart.

Correct determination of equipment title or simply stated who owns the equipment, prior to placing purchase requisition is critical.  It will determine whether the transaction is taxable. It also defines identification, stewardship, and reporting compliance requirements for the asset as well as disposition options available at the end of its useful life.

Generally speaking, for equipment purchased with sponsor funds on a grant, title will vest with Stanford University at the time of acquisition. This requires sales/use tax to be applied to the purchase transaction. In these cases, sales tax is an allowable direct charge to the sponsored project. Equipment purchased with contract funds must be treated on a case by case basis. It is critical to read and understand the terms and conditions guiding equipment.

Capital Equipment has a full life-cycle process

For a Sponsored Project, it begins with the identification of the need for equipment during the proposal process. Methods of acquisition will be either purchased, furnished by the sponsor, or fabricated.  Once the proposed equipment has been approved, it is managed under Stanford’s approved Property Management System. 

Equipment is accountable to the award for which it was originally purchased or furnished.  Use on other contracts must be authorized by the Sponsor. Use on other grants is allowable as long as it does not interfere with the primary purpose for which the item was acquired.

When that award ends, or if the asset is no longer needed for that award, the Property Management Office is informed and coordinates communication with the Sponsor to ensure appropriate disposal occurs or the asset is transferred for use on another award.

Systems for Managing Capital Equipment 

Sunflower Assets (SFA) 

The official system of record for property management at Stanford University is Sunflower Assets (SFA). It is used to:

  • Track status of equipment, use, ownership, and excess (disposal)

  • Track support in Oracle and CRISP systems for depreciation and IDC (Indirect Costs) for expense on equipment

  • Track physical location of equipment

Research administrators provide information about equipment such as: asset user, change in location, use, need to process equipment as excess (dispose), and others to the DPA who is responsible for creating and modifying asset records so they are current. These records are reviewed and reconciled on a monthly basis by the Property Management Office. It's important to notify your DPA immediately when equipment arrives as they have to record the asset in Sunflower within 30 days of receipt).

The following classifications of equipment are required to be entered into SFA by a DPA within 30 days of receipt of the asset:

  • Stanford-owned capital equipment

  • Federal or sponsor-owned equipment (capital and non-capital)

  • Leased equipment when lease meets both of the following criteria:

    • Lease amount is greater than $5,000

    • The lease extends longer than one year

  • Equipment loaned to Stanford

  • Capital equipment donated or transferred to Stanford

The SFA record includes data from Oracle Financials (iProcurement, Accounts Payable and FA). Detailed steps for creating or uploading asset records are available in the Sunflower User Guide. 

Recording and tracking of non-capital equipment in SFA is encouraged— particularly for those items, which are of critical need for the work being performed, subject to potential theft, contain sensitive data, or those which may need additional control due to the value of the information they may contain.

Research administrators provide information about equipment such as: asset user, change in location, use, need to process equipment as excess (dispose), and others to the DPA who is responsible for creating and modifying asset records so they are current. These records are reviewed and reconciled on a monthly basis by the Property Management Office.

Stanford Property Administration Resource (SPARC)

Stanford Property Administration Resource (SPARC) provides links to common property tasks, a directory of DPAs and a supplemental front-end for certain Sunflower activities. Stanford Property Administration Resource (SPARC).