What is research? (Frascati definition)

The Frascati Manual is the internationally recognised methodology for collecting and using R&D statistics. It defines research as follows:

"Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications."

The term R&D covers three activities: basic research, applied research and experimental development.

  • Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.
  • Applied research is also original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.
  • Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on existing knowledge gained from research and/or practical experience, which is directed to producing new materials, products or devices, to installing new processes, systems and services, or to improving substantially those already produced or installed. R&D covers both formal R&D in R&D units and informal or occasional R&D in other units.

 The College is required to ensure only appropriate activity is classified as ‘research’ in their statutory returns as defined by ‘Frascati’, and that such activity meets the requirements set out by the Charity Commission in its definition of ‘Charitable Research.

For further information about the Frascati Definition of Research, please consult the Research Office's standard application process, under develop research plan and establish resources.

What qualifies as research activity?

UK Universities receive significant public funding through the Higher Education Funding Councils and are expected to carry out research which is for the public benefitThe College receives support for research based on the outputs of its research and a key income stream results from the annual return or expenditure shown through the research ledger.

Imperial College London is a registered charity which brings with it similar responsibilities.

Key requirements for an activity to be classified as research are around the retention of Intellectual Property (IP) the right to publish (academic freedom). If the activity being undertaken has no public benefit then it is classified as the provision of a serviceThis activity cannot be returned as research expenditure to HEFCE and so will not attract support. In addition the provision of a service may be subject to VAT.