Research and Innovation Services


Approval and submissions

Information about approval and submission processes at UCL.

All research funding proposals and related agreements require Institutional Authorisation by Award Services prior to their submission to the funder/agreement execution. Institutional Authorisation will only be granted after Internal Approval has been confirmed.

What is internal approval?

Internal approval is initiated by the Principal Investigator (or their delegate) submitting the research proposal within Worktribe. Approval can only be requested after the Principal Investigator has completed the Risk Assessment.

The standard route is shown below, however, some Departments/Divisions may have opted to include an additional internal approval step.

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Internal approval is confirmation from the Head of Department(s)/Division Director(s) (or their delegates) of the viability and acceptability of a research proposal in terms of; capacity & infrastructure; financial recovery; strategic fit; and ethical & regulatory requirements. It is also confirmation that:

  1. No disciplinary warnings or active sanctions exist relating to the lead applicant (and sponsor and supervisor if relevant)
  2. That the Department/Division has considered any risks highlighted within the proposal risk assessment (within Worktribe) and confirms these to be acceptable.

Faculty Approval forms part of the internal approval and will be automatically requested if the ‘FEC Recovery’ (price as a proportion of the cost) or the ‘Contribution to Overheads’ is below minimum levels for the Funder. Typically the contribution to overheads should be >30% (of all direct costs), with exceptions for European and Charity funding. Proposals that are above-defined values (default £3m) will also escalate to Faculties.

Faculty Approval will also be sought for proposals where the Principal Investigator is the Head of Department/Division Director. This process is not currently automatic so is managed by Award Services.

What is Institutional Authorisation?

Institutional Authorisation is confirmation by the delegated UCL officer that the proposed activity does not pose a reputational or financial risk to UCL, or where risk has been established, that this has been properly considered and mitigating measures agreed. Institutional Authorisation to submit a research application or execute a research contract is delegated by the Provost to the Director of Award Services.

In accordance with UCL’s Financial Regulations, no research application should be submitted without prior approval from Award Services.  Furthermore, all research funding contracts/agreements must be signed by an authorised Award Services officer. 

What do Award Services check?

  • Assess the financial integrity of the costing and application
  • Review the terms and conditions of funding (and negotiate these when necessary)
  • Ensure compliance with College and Funder policies relevant to the specific proposal
  • Consider third-party requirements and agreements

Departments/Divisions are encouraged to obtain advice from Award Services ahead of submitting for internal approval. The team can advise on a range of topics including eligibility criteria, terms and conditions of funding, project costing, and completion of the application.

Advice can be requested within the Worktribe project record by sending a ‘Comment’ to the nominated Award Services approver and is strongly recommended when:

  • the Department/Division is not familiar with the funder and/or scheme
  • the funder and/or scheme is particularly complex e.g. funding from the European Commission, NIH etc.
  • UCL is the lead organisation/coordinator for projects involving multiple external organisations/research partners.

How long will approval take for grant applications?

At the stage of submitting for internal approval, the costing and application (which must be attached) should reflect the final UCL costing and include (at a minimum) the finalised budget details, any supporting approvals/statements, justification of resources, and where possible the final case for support. 

For standard applications, PI’s should submit proposals for approval at least two weeks before the funder deadline; allowing 5 working days for Departmental / Divisional approval, and 5 working days for Award Services approval. However please note, some Departments/Divisions may require longer.

PIs leading complex proposals (e.g. proposals involving multiple organisations, particularly if non-UK) or those requiring additional institutional commitments, are strongly advised to notify their Departmental/Divisional and (if applicable Faculty) approvers and Award Services (including ERIO), of their intent to apply as soon as possible. For further information visit our When to seek advice page.

Heads of Departments/Division Directors will no longer be requested to ‘underwrite’ the risk associated with late proposals being submitted ahead of approval. Whilst our Pre-Award team and European Research & Innovation Office will strive to check and approve proposals if insufficient notice is provided this may lead to authorisation being withheld, and deadlines missed.

Late submissions will be referred to the Director of Award Services who will assess the level of risk and agree an approach in consultation with relevant Heads/Deans. This policy was enforced from 1 August 2017.