The following guidance has been developed to help applicants and existing grant-holders navigate the uncertainty around the effects of COVID-19 on the College's research activity. New sections will be added and information updated regularly as Government and funder information changes, so please check back regularly. Please contact the Research Office if you have suggestions for the FAQs.

New applications

1) Can I still submit new grant applications?

Yes, many funders are continuing to run their schemes as normal although some deadlines may have been changed, so always check the call details carefully on the funders’ own websites. Funders who have suspended their application rounds will have a statement on their website.

Your local research support teams are working remotely (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services), but please give them as much notice as possible of your intention to submit. Priority is being given to COVID-19 rapid response applications

2) Is there a separate College process for rapid response COVID-19 funding calls?

No, the College’s application process remains the same, but Faculty Research Services teams will prioritise rapid response applications. To ensure timely submission, please contact your local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) as soon as possible to facilitate a priority submission

3) Are there any changes to how funding applications are approved while staff are working remotely?

No, Faculty Research Services staff can still access InfoEd, Je-S and other funder submission systems from home and will continue to provide institutional approval for all grant applications as normal.

Head of Department approval in InfoEd can still be undertaken remotely by the HoD or their authorised delegate. If there are extenuating circumstances, contact Faculty Research Services as soon as possible to discuss the possibility of accepting a HoD approval via email instead

4) What are the current funder policies on submission processes and deadlines?

The COVID-19 Funder Guidance page is updated regularly and has links to statements from our main funders. Always check the funders’ own websites for specific call details and up-to-date information.

5) Are funders extending submission deadlines?

Some funders have extended submission deadlines for their schemes. Always check the funders’ own websites and call guidance for details. Ensure your local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) is notified of your intention to submit well ahead of any existing or amended deadlines so they can support your application. Priority is being given to COVID-19 rapid response applications.

6) If the application process requires an interview, are funder panels being held as normal?

Funders are making practical decisions based on the latest government advice and will update their websites accordingly. Anyone expecting an interview will be notified of the relevant arrangements or intended delays by the funder directly.

7) Are funders able to make funding decisions or will these be delayed?

Like Imperial, most funders are now operating remotely which is likely to affect their decision-making process. Since decision panels are unable to meet face-to-face, funding decisions may be delayed or postponed for the time being. Always check individual funder websites for the latest information.

8) Should new and recently awarded grants go ahead?

Given the circumstances, Principal Investigators (PIs) should carefully consider whether starting the project now is absolutely necessary or feasible. PIs should contact their local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) to discuss whether the project should be delayed, taking account of the funder’s terms and conditions. The main funders have indicated that they will take a pragmatic approach to any delays caused to research projects.

Faculty research services teams are still responsible for formally accepting awards and will work with funders to ensure this can be done, especially in cases where acceptance requires a “wet” signature. Priority will be given to award setups for COVID-19 research funding.

New Awards

1) Can recently awarded grants start as normal

Given the circumstances, Principal Investigators (PIs) should carefully consider whether starting the project now is absolutely necessary or feasible. PIs should contact their local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) to discuss whether the project should be delayed, taking account of the funder’s terms and conditions. The main funders have indicated that they will take a pragmatic approach to any delays caused to research projects.

2) Can recently awarded grants start if work can be carried out remotely?

Yes. If a project can be carried out remotely and no researchers need to be recruited, then work can proceed and the grant set-up by the Faculty Research Services Team. However, if your project has overseas partners, fieldwork involving human contact or requires international travel then Principal Investigators should give serious consideration to whether starting the grant now is necessary or feasible. Establishing contracts with research partners, subcontractors or suppliers may be difficult if their operations are affected by COVID-19 while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office prohibits all non-essential travel.

PIs should discuss project set-up requirements with their Departmental research support team and Faculty Research Services team in the first instance.

Information about remote working is available on the HR websiteIf the project is able to proceed, the College's ICT service provides plenty of guidance on remote working including repositories for safe research data management and advice on connecting with your research team remotely using College endorsed platforms such as Microsoft Teams. 

3) How long can a UKRI grant start date be delayed?

Many funders are recommending that researchers delay start dates where possible. UKRI has revised its policy on start date delays, permitting responsive mode and fellowship grants to be delayed for up to six months and an additional clause will be included in grant offer letters for new awardees. Where an offer letter has already been issued under the former policy (up to three months delay) and the grant has not begun, requests to delay the start date for six months can be submitted via Je-S.

Please note, the six month start date delay does not apply to managed mode calls or grants deliving time-critical investments or training, and the previous start date policy continues to apply. If more time is needed for these grants, PIs can submit an extension request via Je-S which will be considered by UKRI on a case-by-case basis.

Contracts

1) Will the signing-off of contracts under negotiation for upcoming projects be affected by the COVID-19 situation?

If you have a contract currently under negotiation you should continue to liaise directly with your Faculty Contracts Team, and Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation team as normal.  They will guide you on any issues with the contract and approaches to funders or partners.   However, please think carefully about the delivery of the project, timelines and any additional costs that may be incurred (eg. increases in salary costs) as a result of any delayed start to work.  Changes may be sought in the contract at this point to help account for or mitigate against the impact of the current COVID-19 outbreak.

2) Can new contracts with companies working on research project still be put in place?

Yes, please continue to liaise with Research Services and Faculty Contracts Teams as normal. They will advise on the best course of action and will liaise with the company on the form of contract.  However, please think carefully about the delivery of the project, timelines and any additional costs that may be incurred (eg. increases in salary costs) as a result of any delayed start to work.  Additions can be made to the contract to help account for or mitigate against the impact of the current COVID-19 outbreak going forwards.

3) If work is delayed by COVID-19 is the College still bound by contractual terms with industry funders and partners?

In these circumstances, College will still be bound by the terms of the contract, however, each contract should contain mitigation wording to account for unforeseen delays or issues arising that have an impact on a project.  This will mainly fall under Force Majeure, but there may be additional terms within a contract that can be invoked. 

If you are unclear on any of the provisions within your contract please contact your Faculty Contracts Team or Faculty Industrial Partnerships and Commercialisation (IPC) Team for further guidance.  We would encourage you to discuss the impact on your project with your funder or collaborators, and further guidance on how to go about this may be sought from your IPC Team.  Some funders are offering no cost extensions, or other means to continue projects; these and other contract specific actions will require amendments which your Faculty Contracts Team will help with. 

EU Commission funding

1) Is EU Commission funding being treated differently to UK funding?

In general, the questions and answers outlined on this page are also applicable to EC funded projects. Please visit the Research Office European Commission Covid-19 page for more detailed information regarding applications to Horizon 2020 funding calls, the management of existing grants and all other European Commission funding.

2) If a Grant Agreement has been signed can start dates for EU Commission projects be delayed?

Some elements of the research may be able to start up remotely without requiring a Grant Agreement amendment to change the start date. If your project has started since January 2020 or is due to start in the next 3-4 months, it may be prudent to delay the recruitment of new staff with only a minor impact on cost and the overall project timeline. If project efficiencies cannot be found in order to stay within the original timeline, a No Cost Extension can be requested. Please see further details and EC guidance on the Research Office European Commission Covid-19 page 

3) If a Grant Agreement has been signed, can the start date be amended if necessary?

Once a Grant Agreement has been signed, the terms can only be changed using a Grant Agreement amendment. The European Commission, one the partner institutions or Imperial can initiate this change. If you think your Grant Agreement needs to be amended as a result of COVID-19 please contact your Research Office EU Team Negotiator.

Existing grants

1) Are existing grants running as normal?

If your project is able to operate remotely then you can continue with your work and most College functions including Purchasing are still accessible via remote access. Information about remote working is available on the HR website.

We expect funders to take a pragmatic approach to any disruption to research projects and depending on the nature of the study, individual circumstances and the period of disruption and we envisage that:

  • Grants may be extended to allow existing budgets to be utilised (a no-cost extensions)
  • Extra funding could be requested if there is reasonable justification which funders will consider on a case-by-case basis. Note that some funders have a maximum grant amount which cannot be increased.

Principal Investigators (PIs) should contact their local Department and Faculty research support team to discuss whether proceeding with the research is safe or appropriate and to establish any cost implications. If a funder confirms a grant extension or supplement evidence should be retained on the grant file to support future cost claims.

It is essential that grant holders and their research administration teams retain appropriate evidence of any additional costs incurred, e.g. irrecoverable fees arising from the cancellation of meetings/events; salary costs for staff supporting frontline NHS services.

2) Can the Start Date of new projects be delayed?

Given the circumstances, Principal Investigators should carefully consider whether starting the project now is absolutely necessary or feasible unless the study is COVID-19 related.

Contact your local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) to discuss the consequences of delaying the start date of a new project so this can be considered in line with funder’s terms and conditions and expectations.

 

3) Are new projects being set-up by Research Services Teams?

Yes, Faculty Research Services Teams are working remotely and continuing to function as normal. New projects will be set-up if a delay to the start date is not possible but priority is being given to COVID-19 rapid response studies.

4) What are my options if a project cannot continue remotely?

We expect our funders to take a pragmatic approach to any disruption to research projects. Depending on the funders’ terms and conditions, specific circumstances and period of disruption, there are several possible options:

  • No-cost extension - grants can be extended to allow existing budgets to be utilised
  • Costed extension - additional funding can be requested if there is reasonable justification, but funders will consider this on a case-by-case basis.
  • Existing timeline and budget - some funders have a fixed project timeline and/or maximum grant amount which cannot be increased. To work within the original parameters, PIs may be required to change the project scope or deliverables and utilise underspends or budget virements.
  • Temporary grant suspension – some grants may need to be suspended temporarily (held in abeyance)

Principal Investigators should contact their local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) to discuss their individual circumstances and any cost implications so the best course of action can be agreed in line with funders’ terms and conditions. Funder confirmation of extensions, supplementary funding or temporary suspensions should be shared with the local research support team for their records.

5) What happens to awards ending before June/July 2020?

If your project is scheduled to end within the next few months, the Principal Investigator (PI) should consider whether all deliverables can be met or not. If work can continue, then any scientific reporting obligations to the funder should be completed as normal. The award will then be closed as usual by your Faculty Research Services team.

If your project has been disrupted by COVID-19 and you are unable to finish on time, then a No Cost Extension may be possible if this is in line with the funders’ terms and conditions. PIs should contact their local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) to discuss the best course of action as soon as possible.

6) How will a return to clinical duties affect existing projects?

Several funders are fully supportive of staff who return to NHS clinical duties as a result of COVID-19. Associated staff costs should continue to be charged to the existing grant where relevant. Please refer to the relevant funder website for details of whether no-cost extensions or costed extensions will be provided.

Some funders may expect the NHS to eventually reimburse the project for any salary costs incurred during the period of clinical redeployment. The Faculty of Medicine is tracking which staff are affected and further detail on this process will be made available here shortly.

7) What guidance exists for commercially funded projects and those with industry partners?

The Enterprise Team have prepared a message to Imperial’s business and industry partners appraising them of the latest situation. Principal Investigators should contact their local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) to discuss their individual circumstances so the best course of action can be agreed in line with funders’ terms and conditions and expectations.

8) Can fixed-term research staff be furloughed?

Principal Investigators (PIs) should contact their local Department and Faculty research support team to discuss whether proceeding with the research is safe or appropriate and to establish any cost implications of pausing or suspending their projects.

The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme to help staff whose roles and normal operations have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Fixed-term research staff whose funding source is not public funding in any substantive way may be eligible for the scheme. Staff placed on furlough will not be able to undertake any work for the College.

The College is currently running two phases of the Job Retention Scheme and relevant staff must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks:

To learn more about the Job Retention Scheme, current guidelines and advice on who to contact, please visit the HR website.

Grants ending

1) What happens to awards ending before June/July 2020?

If your project is scheduled to end within the next few months, the Principal Investigator (PI) should consider whether all deliverables can be met or not. If work can continue, then any scientific reporting obligations to the funder should be completed as normal. The award will then be closed as usual by your Faculty Research Services team.

If your project has been disrupted by COVID-19 and you are unable to finish on time, then a No Cost Extension may be possible if this is in line with the funders’ terms and conditions. PIs should contact their local research support team (i.e. Department administration and Faculty Research Services) to discuss the best course of action as soon as possible.

2) Are grantholders still required to complete end of project reporting?

Unless funders have contacted you explicitly then all of end-of-project scientific reporting requirements remain in place and access to systems such as Researchfish are unaffected by remote working and should be used as normal.

If your project has experienced delays as a result of COVID-19 and deliverables have not been met, please liaise with your Departmental support team and Faculty Research Services team to consider possible options (see Existing Grants section above)

Clinical studies and ethical approvals

1) Will COVID-19 studies be fast tracked for review?

Yes - the JRCO are fasting tracking sponsorship review of COVID-19 projects. The HRA will also fast track studies for ethical review. Guidance can be found on the HRA website

2) How can an NHS research project be amended or suspended?

The majority of amendments that reduce burden on participants or are designed to move to remote monitoring are now classed as Category C minor amendments. This means they only need to be authorised by the project sponsor and site, but do not need formal ethical approval. The same applies to a temporary halt to the study.

However, if your amendment increases the burden on participants, then this would be a substantial amendment. Suspension of recruitment only is not considered a minor amendment, but you should notify the JRCO as sponsor in all cases. 

3) How can a ICREC/SETREC research project be amended or suspended?

4) Who can I contact for further advice?

Further advice from the MHRA and HRA can be found here:

The JRCO website also has advice on COVID 19 research and staff contact details

Scientific delivery

1) Should research involving human participants stop?

Principal Investigators undertaking any non-clinical research that involves face-to-face contact with other people should consider whether activity such as interviews or fieldwork can be delayed or delivered differently (i.e. through remote contact). All Imperial research should abide by the social distancing advice from the government.

2) What happens to overseas fieldwork?

Due to current Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel restrictions all overseas fieldwork should be paused and worldwide non-essential travel, postponed. Fieldwork involving face-to-face contact should not go ahead unless this can be managed remotely.

3) Are Imperial buildings and labs still accessible?

Only essential research and operational activity is taking place across College campuses. If your work requires you to be on campus, please contact your Head of Department to discuss your requirements and to seek approval

4) Should events and other travel be cancelled?

All events should be cancelled or rearranged unless they can be offered online and all non-essential travel – including research – cannot go ahead. 

If you are due to travel on College business and you consider your trip to be essential, please seek approval from your Head opf Department, Dean or Director and confirm the College travel insurance position. The College will not allow work or study related trips which are not covered by the College insurance policy.  The Staff travel insurance page is being updated regularly.

5) Can research data be stored safely while working remotely?

The College’s research data storage facilities are unaffected by remote working and staff can continue to access repositories. Please visit the ICT Research Data Storage website for more information.