Following internal approval, all research funding proposals and related agreements require institutional authorisation by Award Services before they can be submitted or executed.
What is internal approval?
Internal approval is initiated by the Principal Investigator (PI), or delegate, submitting a research proposal within Worktribe. Approval can only be requested after the PI has completed a risk assessment
The standard route is shown below, however, some Departments/Divisions may include an additional internal approval step.
Standard internal approval route
- PI or delegate submits a research proposal for approval
- Departmental/Divisional Manager approval
- Head of Department/Divisional Director approval
- Faculty approval (if required)
- Research and Innovation Services institutional authorisation.
Internal approval is confirmation from the Head of Department (or delegates) of the viability and acceptability of a research proposal in terms of its capacity and infrastructure, financial recovery, strategic fit, and ethical and regulatory requirements. It is also confirmation that:
- No disciplinary warnings or active sanctions exist relating to the lead applicant (and sponsor and supervisor if relevant)
- 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 process 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 more than 30% of all direct costs, with exceptions for European and charity funding. Proposals that are above defined values (default £3m) will also escalate to the relevant faculty for approval.
Faculty approval will also be sought for proposals where the PI is the Head of Department. This process 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 Financial Regulations, a research application should not be submitted without prior approval from Award Services, and all research funding contracts/agreements should 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 UCL 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 a proposal 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 is not familiar with the funder and/or scheme
- The funder and/or scheme is particularly complex, e.g. funding from the European Commission or National Institutes of Health
- UCL is the lead organisation/coordinator for projects involving multiple external organisations/research partners.
How long will approval take for grant applications?
When submitting for internal approval, the costing and application (which should be attached) should reflect the final UCL costing and include at a minimum:
- The finalised budget details
- Any supporting approvals/statements
- Justification of resources
- The final case for support (where possible).
For standard applications, PIs should submit proposals for approval at least 2 weeks before the funder deadline, allowing a minimum of 5 working days for departmental approval (some departments may require longer), and 5 working days for Award Services approval.
PIs leading complex proposals, such as proposals involving multiple organisations, particularly if non-UK, or those requiring additional institutional commitments, should notify their department and (if applicable) Faculty approvers and Award Services of their intent to apply as soon as possible.
Whilst many research proposals follow a standard application process, others can be complex and require input and advice from various UCL organisational units. Use the drop-down menu below to find out when you should seek advice.
- When should I seek advice?
If the answer is yes to any of the questions in the sections below, contact your Department/Division Manager, Faculty Research Coordination Office, or Award Services as early as possible, so that appropriate support can be provided:
- Is the project larger in scale than those routinely led from, or held by your department?
- Is the proposal being submitted to a new Funder (i.e. a funder that is not listed in Worktribe), or is the funder/scheme unfamiliar to your department?
UCL as the coordinator
- Do you intend for UCL to act as the lead organisation or scientific coordinator for a collaborative project involving multiple external partners? Are they overseas?
- Will the project require either the acquisition of new space, the modification of existing space, the installation of equipment, the creation of new buildings, or any other capital investment?
- Will the project require UCL to fund any kind of Institutional Commitment, in addition to any standard under-recovery of the full economic cost of the project? Examples include UCL providing matched funding for equipment or funding studentships.
Research computing and data storage
- Will the project require the use of any high-performance or high-throughput computing facilities, and/or is it likely to generate data over 1TB in volume at any stage?
Conflict of interest
- Could the project involve people who could be perceived as having a conflict of interest? An example of this would be an investigator in receipt of an associated consultancy. Refer to the UCL Declaration of Interest Policy for further guidance.
- Might a reasonable member of the public express concerns, upon hearing some aspect of the project?
- Could the project involve or generate materials, methods, or knowledge that have the potential to cause significant harm to the environment, animals, or humans?
- Could the project involve the use or generation of Dual-Use technology i.e. materials, software, and /or technology that can be applied for civilian and military applications, and/or could contribute to the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction?
- Is there any intention or requirement for the export of sensitive technology or strategic goods (encompassing physical export, software, and technical know-how) which have or may have a military application?
- Is there any risk that third parties involved in this project (including funders, collaborators, and suppliers) could potentially be perceived to conflict with the aims, objectives, and activities of UCL or risk reputational damage by association?
Human participants, tissue, or data
- Does the project involve human participants, their tissue and/or their data (including data provided by third parties such as HSCIC)?
- Will the project require materials to be exchanged between project partners or collaborators, and/or imported from third parties?
Award Services will strive to check and approve proposals. 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 of Department/Deans.