Normally we start the project year for each project on the date it is approved by the Advisory Board, and not the date the researcher begins work at the ERC or is awarded funding (which as you can imagine, varies widely by researcher); this is because in the time between Board approval and actual data access by the researcher, quite a lot of work goes on behind the scenes at ERC in terms of staffing and labor to onboard the new researcher(s) and set up the projects, including: administrative tasks, billing and accounting, all required paperwork, updating our databases, preparing the data request files, coding them, downloading them from our sources, prepping them for the researcher, adding files to the server, ITS requests, coding door locks, adding researchers as affiliates through the UT HR system, ordering ID cards if necessary, and much more. The project fees that we collect (once a project year starts) help in part to pay for this work that begins on day 1 that a project is approved (and really, before, with the review of the project proposal); they also pay for the costs of the servers and other IT services that ERC incurs. Researchers/organizations have 30 days after invoicing to submit payment.
There have been a few instances where projects have been given special approval to begin on a delayed start date, usually due to unforeseen funding or personal circumstances; however, the original end date set by the Board still stands, even if there is a delayed start date. It is strongly recommended that secured funding sources be in place prior to submitting a project proposal to the Advisory Board.