Handshake (by Fergus Burnett, Imperial College London)

Many research projects will involve working with new and existing external partners who are responsible for delivering aspects of the overall programme. In line with the Relationship Review Policy, researchers should ensure that all third-party relationships support the College's mission and strategic aims while being consistent with Imperial’s overall objectives.

It is important to consider the ethical implications of any relationships formed and ensue that the connection does not:

  • Compromise the College’s status as an independent institution
  • Create material conflicts of interest
  • Arise, in whole or in part, from illegal activity that might include: Tax evasion, fraud, bribery, or the violation of international conventions on human rights, the environment and UK sanctions laws.

When forming relationships with new or existing partners, PIs should consider the organisation’s scientific and financial ability to deliver and their suitability for the project, the conditions under which the original relationship was established and the governance mechanisms necessary for managing the relationship during the project’s lifetime.

When defining project responsibilities, there is an important decision between a research partner and a subcontractor, summarised in the Research Office guidance document.

Partner or Subcontractor?

Partner Definition

A Research partner will undertake work that meets Frascati definition of research and will have independently undertake an aspect of a project with mutually agreed objectives with the lead institution. There are three categories of Research Partner within the College’s financial treatment:

  • UK Universities
  • European Commission
  • Other

Subcontractor Definition

A subcontractor will provide discrete services for which they will charge VAT. They will not independently deliver a research project and their work will not meet the Frascati definition of research. There are two categories of Professional Fees within the College’s financial treatment:

  • Professional Fees Other - where a VAT charge is expected.
  • Non-VATable Professional Fees where VAT does not apply by specific exception