A grant is used when the sponsor anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during the performance of the project. Grants are among the most flexible award mechanisms.
Cooperative agreements are funding mechanisms used by the Federal government. The main difference between a grant and a cooperative agreement is that a cooperative agreement entails substantial staff involvement from a federal agency.
The transferring of a substantive portion of the research/program effort of the prime award to another institution or organization.
A contract is used when the principal purpose is to provide a prescribed service or "good" for the direct benefit or use of the funding agency.
A consultant is an independent contractor engaged to provide expert advice or services, typically for short or intermittent time periods.
Unlike funds governed by agreements, gifts are awarded irrevocably and, generally, without contractual requirements (again, generally "no strings attached").
The federal government provides the bulk of funds for academic R&D; during the past two decades, its share has fluctuated around 60%.