While terms and conditions will vary between funders, the core process for preparing a grant application and common issues for consideration are outlined in the sections below.
Please note the Partner and Profesional Fees and the Proposal Develpment Policy do not currently meet web accessibility requirements. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an accessible version.
Check Funder Terms and Condition
Funders will announce the application criteria for each scheme when the call for proposals is released, and Principal Investigators (PIs) should pay close attention to the call details, eligibility and assessment criteria, using it to construct their application. This should incorporate checks to ensure that partner institutions and co-investigators are eligible for the scheme.
The College also has its own applicant eligibility criteria so check the Investigator Eligibility Policy ROP-03 [pdf] for guidance on suitability.
Develop the Science Case
The proposed activity must meet the Frascati definition of research and satisfy the public benefit test i.e. the research should be conducted for the public benefit and not solely for self-interest or for private or commercial consumption. For further infomarion see What counts as Research?
Principal Investigators should note that the College prohibits research funded by tobacco companies or using classified research or materials. The proposed research should also meet Imperial’s ethical and moral standards outlined in the Ethics Code, as well as giving due consideration to the collection, use and storage of data in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Submitting your proposal for internal peer review is strongly encouraged, and many Departments or Faculties will have their own local peer review processes to support the PI in developing a competitive case for support and high quality application.
Identify and Justify Resources
The research and any subprojects (i.e. a research project with a discrete budget and scientific objectives within the overall grant, carried out by another College Department) must be adequately resourced to ensure that the project is able to deliver its scientific outcomes within the proposed timeline. Depending on the terms and conditions of the funding, the Principal Investigator should give careful consideration to the following:
- Academic Staff Time - Establish realistic time commitments for academic staff involved in the research, i.e the Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators.
- Researchers, Technicians and Other Support Staff - Determine whether project specific Post-Doctoral Researchers, Technicians or PhD students are required to deliver the proposed work plan.
- Non-Staff Costs including Equipment and Facilities - Include any other operational costs for the project such as consumables, travel and costs for conference attendance if permissible; New Equipment requests should comply with funder policies and where applicable may require an agreed Departmental contribution to the costs; Future purchases may be subject to College Procurement and Tendering Regulations; Existing Equipment can be identified on the College’s Facility Directory, but note that not all funders will meet access or maintenance charges for existing equipment.
- Space - Consider physical resource requirements such as desk or lab space, and whether the work requires any associated costs, e.g. external room hire rates, building works.
- Open Access Publication and Data Storage - Where funder terms permit, consider including costs for Open Access fees and, where appropriate, specialist data storage.
- Partner and Subcontractor Costs - Projects involving partners or subcontractors are often managed by the lead institution who will submit a single joint application to the funder. The lead institution must obtain costs from third parties at the level of detail required by the Funder. Where Imperial is the lead institution, partner or subcontractor costs should be entered into the College pre-award and funder’s submission system using the appropriate cost categories, and properly authorised by the partner institution before submission
All costs should be justified within the case for support, establishing a clear link between the resources requested and the outcomes of the research.
Costing and Pricing
Regardless of funder, costing for all research projects should be prepared using the College’s Pre-Award Management System, using the Full Economic Cost (FEC) methodology. The price should take account of an acceptable level of financial recovery before funding applications are approved, but remember many funders will set the price themselves or restrict it. This process will often run in parallel to completing the application in line with the Funder’s submission requirements (i.e. electronic submission or hard copy application form).
Important points to note:
- Cross-Departmental and Cross-Faculty Projects - The lead Department budget should be entered within the main proposal. PIs should create subprojects for any internal Departmental partners in the Pre-Award Management system; Collaborating departments should record their budgets as separate subprojects. These allow a Co-Investigator to separately manage the costs, price (recovery), attachments and internal approval routing for their share of the overall collaborative project budget to support their own scientific investigation. These should be separately approved by each Department; Institutional authorisation will be provided by the lead Department’s Research Services team who are delegated to approve on behalf of the College.
- Multi-Institutional Projects: Imperial Leading - Imperial’s costs should be entered into the Pre-Award System as the ‘main project’, with research partner costs provided separately by the partner organisation via their Research Services team. NB: The College should not calculate costs on behalf of its partners because each institution’s costs are different. Although the funder views the award as joint funding, administratively a single institution will act as ‘lead’ to coordinate and manage the award, transferring funds to its research partners.
- Multi-Institutional Projects: Imperial as Partner - here Imperial is not leading the overall application, Departments should still view the costing, pricing and internal approval process as they would any other type of application, by using the Pre-Award Management System and noting overhead and recovery rates. These should be approved by the relevant Department and Research Services before final costs are provided to the lead external partner.
- Directly Allocated Costs – PI and Co-I Time - PI and Co-I time are estimates of each academic’s contribution to the project and entered as named individuals.
- Directly Incurred Staff Costs - These costs are specific to the research and will be charged directly to the project.
- Indirects, Estates and Infrastructure Technicians - Indirect Costs – Non-specific research costs such as general office and basic laboratory consumables, Library support and other College services; Estates Rate - premises-related research costs such as repairs, utilities, rent, insurance and existing equipment; Infrastructure Technicians - support for health & safety, stores and laboratory management, as well as equipment maintenance and administration. All of these costs are calculated using set College rates and will depend on the percentage of academic and research staff time dedicated to the project.
- Directly Incurred Non-Staff Costs - This covers direct costs which are specific to the project e.g. consumables, travel and equipment. All cost estimations should comply with the College’s procurement policies including tendering requirements and written quotes where required (including any applicable VAT).
- Equipment and Facilities - Applicants should consult the Directory of College research facilities before requesting new equipment or facilities, and total costs should include VAT where applicable. A limited number of FEC Charge-Out Facilities are available for use. Access and maintenance charges for use of other College facilities may only be included where Funder terms permit.
- Price - This should be reviewed and checked for alignment with Funder and College pricing policies before submission. NB: Many funders do not meet the full cost of research.
Assess Partner Suitability
For each new application, Principal Investigators should ensure that proposed research partners and collaborators meet the College’s expected moral and ethical standards even if there is a prior working relationship with the organisation or individual. As part of your assessment, you should use Imperial’s Relationship Review Policy to evaluate the risk of collaboration, consider any Conflicts of Interest and determine the partner’s ability to deliver the planned work programme.
Increasingly, our main funders ask for evidence of due diligence checks on third parties undertaking grant-funded activities. A Toolkit has been developed for the Global Challenges Research Fund, including a Relationship Review Questionnaire. This guidance reflects best practice for assessing and managing new partner relationships and can be used more widely.
Prepare Supporting Documents
Applicants should read the funder guidelines carefully to ensure all required documents are provided in the correct format. Additional documents may include CVs, publication lists, supporting statements from the institution or Head of Department.
Funders may specify limits to page numbers, font size, font type and margin size for each supporting document. Failure to comply may mean an application is returned or rejected at an early stage of assessment.
a) Data Management Plans
College policy requires a Data Management Plan (DMP) to accompany every grant application regardless of funder requirements, although most now require a DMP as part of the application. The Principal Investigator is responsible for ensuring the DMP is appropriate for the research proposed and that data collected complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Templates are available via DMPonline and should include information on data collection, ethics and legal compliance, data storage, backup and sharing data. A copy of your Data Management Plan should be submitted to Research Services / Joint Research Office with your application if it is not already part of the application form.
b) UKRI Impact Summary and Pathways to Impact Statements
UKRI no longer require Impact Summary statements or Pathways to Impact documents, but always check call details for specific application requirements. For further details visit the UKRI website.
Within the Pre-Award Management System, the College operates a two-stage approval process for each proposal. First approval is required by the Head of Department (or their authorised delegate) and, depending on the size and value of the proposal (or where the PI is also the Head of Department), the Faculty Dean may also be required to approve bids.
Institutional Authority will then be provided by the relevant Research Services / Joint Research Office team who require a minimum of 5 working days’ notice of all proposals prior to the funder’s own deadline for submission. They require sufficient time to review the bid before College authorisation is provided. No proposals will be authorised for submission without prior Head of Department approval.
Increasingly, funders use online submission portals to manage applications and PIs may need to create a registered account. Depending on the submission mechanism, some submissions are not direct and will be routed to the Faculty Research Services team first. They must provide the institutional approval before the application is finally submitted to the funder. PIs should allow sufficient time to register user accounts, especially because some submission systems also require accounts to be authorised by the institution e.g. Je-S system.
PIs should check the Funder’s guidance on how to submit their proposal, and notify their Department and Research Services / Joint Research Office team well ahead of the deadline date.
Where institutional registration is required for new Funder submission systems, please contact the Research Office in the first instance at email@example.com.
Useful College Information
Certain funders require applicants to provide information about the College’s governance, policies and registrations with regulatory bodies. The Imperial College London General Information Sheet contains links to the sections of the College website detailing governance structures and policies; these pages are publicly available so links can be shared directly with funders.
The College maintains registrations with a number of US regulatory bodies as this is a requirement for submitting proposals to US Federal Agencies. The College’s registration numbers with these agencies are listed in the US Applications - Registration Numbers document.