A guide to applying for funding
This is a general guide to applying for research funding and associated Department/Research Services procedures. (There is a seperate webpage for Research Fellowship information.)
The Faculty Research Committee have also compiled a helpful list of Do's and Don'ts of proposal writing and a checklist to help academic staff evaluate their grant proposal prior to submission ensuring that they have the best chance of success. This checklist is based on good practice outlined by the Research Councils and guidance notes identified within the College.
- You should always check and clarify guidelines / requirements for your specific application before you start preparing it.
- Departmental and Research Services review and approval is needed for all applications, including outline/preliminary applications and proposals submitted by external collaborators with an Imperial Physics component.
The usual process is, the PI alerts the Department Research Operations Manager (ROM – Louise Hayward) of their intention to submit an application, then the PI works with their Section Admin to cost and check the application before passing it to the ROM for Departmental review and approval The ROM then confirms that to Research Services who complete the checks on behalf of the College and submit the application to the funder, or they confirm approval for the PI to do so - depending on the application.
Please make every effort to plan your applications well in advance. As a minimum standard applications have to be approved by the Department and passed on to Research Services four working days ahead of a funder deadline, but specific/non-standard applications may need longer.
Emails with specific instructions for major calls / those needing a selection process are circulated - please read them!
Select a funder/scheme
Things to consider when selecting a funder:
- Programme of work - is the area of research within the funder's area of interest/funding remit and/or does it meet a particular scheme's requirements?
- Eligibility - are you eligible to apply ? Is the College eligible to hold the award ?
Finding a funder/scheme
Major calls of or those that require Department / College selection are usually circulated by email as there will be internal Departmental deadlines.
Imperial has subscribed to Grant Finder. This provides a searchable database of national and international opportunities, news from funding bodies, personalised email alerts and discussion forums. Accounts can be created by selecting the 'Register' option.
You can find a funder or scheme online:
Plan the application process (before you start your application)
Read the guidelines – clarify anything that is unclear.
Note any deadline for submission - do you have enough time to prepare the application and meet internal deadlines as well as the funder one?
If your application is part of a larger research grant application with other Institutions, then you may need to finalise the application by an earlier date to meet the deadlines imposed by a collaborating Institution (remembering it will still need to be reviewed and approved by Imperial).
If you need a letter of institutional support from the Vice-Provost (Research), President or Provost their deadlines and processes are available online.
Application route - do you need to create a user account to be able to apply?
Internal ranking/selection - where funders limit the number of bids by an institution for a particular call, or require that the College ranks its proposals, an internal selection process will be put in place. This will be circulated by email.
Contract terms / Intellectual Property issues – you should seek advice from the Faculty’s Contracts Manager if there are any issues to consider prior to completing the proposal as some funders' terms may not be acceptable to the College or may restrict the use of intellectual property. Contact Gary Wheeler, Tel. 020 7594 6583.
Once you have identified a funding call and scheme, please let the ROM know of your intention to submit an application.
Writing the application
Throughout the writing process you should be addressing any specific points requested by the funder:
- Note the selection criteria for the call, including the weight applied to each, and how your proposal will be assessed (and by whom).
- Ensure that the proposal is well-structured and addresses the expectations and selection criteria of the funder.
- Use the advice and expertise of colleagues, especially those who have had successful proposals with the funder. Many funders also provide application writing guides/hints and tips on their website.
- Care must be taken to ensure the case for support meets the funder's particular requirements, such as page limit, font style and size.
- In addition, you should ensure that any other documentation required is properly prepared in accordance with the funder's specifications: e.g. CVs, justification of resources, knowledge exchange or impact statements, letters of collaboration, quotations, etc
In some case College feedback can be provided for example the College EU office will read and comment on draft ERC and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships proposals.
The Department Research Committee can also review draft proposals on request.
The research and associated activities expected by the funder must be adequately resourced to ensure that the project is undertaken at an appropriate level of quality and within the proposed timeline e.g.
- Investigator input: Identify any co-investigators / collaborators and level of expected involvement
- Staff capacity: Establish capacity of investigators and named staff to undertake the activity relative to other priorities and commitments
- Project specific: Identify project specific resources required e.g. researchers, technicians (at a level commensurate with the skill base required) and non-staff costs e.g. consumables
- Space: Identify resource requirements (e.g. lab space) and establish accessibility and availability.
- Owned equipment / facilities: Identify access options and establish eligibility of costs / access charges which will depend on facility categorisation i.e. FEC Charge-out or Multi-user/PI-led or External. Detailed guidance and link to the College’s Facility Directory.
- New equipment / facilities: Establish the funder’s equipment funding policy, and where institutional contributions are required, establish departmental contribution policy. In Physics this requires approval from Kenny who will normally consider requests when a final budget is provided.
- Funders expectations: establish the funders requirements with regard to publishing, data management, generation of impact and public engagement.
The resources for a particular project should be driven by the research requirements and you are normally required to justify why you are requesting them.
Infoed is the College’s research costing, pricing and approval system. It will generate the financial information which should then be translated in line with application requirements.
Departmental Review / Approval
PI may choose to cost their budget on infoed and / or prepare their applications themselves or they can ask their Section Admin to assist. In either case Section Admin should complete the initial check of the budget and general checks of the application e.g. that the financial information has been correctly translated and entered onto the application, the justification of resources statement when applicable makes sense and ties up, all documentation is complete and correct. Then this is passed onto the ROM for the Departmental review and approval. Once this is complete the application moves to Research Services who are the College’s authorised approvers and it they who will submit the application to the funder or confirm approval for the PI/admin to if it is being submitted directly by them or via another institution.
Infoed submission and approval is done once the ROM has reviewed. One of the approvals Heads of Group are confirming when approving is that the proposal’s space requirements can be met in existing Group space.
As a minimum standard applications have to be approved by the Department and passed on to Research Services four working days ahead of a funder deadline but specific/non-standard applications may need longer.
Research Services are currently trailing a “Deli Counter“ system whereby they will review applications in the order that they are received , although it will only be allocated a place in their queue if it is complete and Departmental approval is in place. This is to ensure that submissions that are submitted early for deadlines will be dealt with according to their place in the queue regardless of whether subsequently there are later submissions that come in with an earlier deadline. The aim is to make sure that submissions are dealt with democratically and that last minute submissions do not get dealt with in favour of or at the expense of earlier submissions, just because they are more last minute.
They will ensure that all submissions received four working days before a funder deadline will be submitted on time. Any submissions received after the internal deadline are not guaranteed to be submitted by the funder deadline, it will entirely depend on the volume of submissions being processed and their place in the queue. Applicants should be aware that there will be a risk that late submissions may not be reviewed in time for the funder deadline.
The Department supports the Deli Counter initiative and would not expect Research Services to prioritise an application over other more timely submissions and if it is not be possible to submit an application on time the Department would not hold Research Services responsible if the deadline was missed.
Application Requirements – what is Deli Counter Ready?
Please see our internal page on Application Requirements – what is Deli Counter Ready?