Research and Innovation Services


What is sponsored research?

Find information and guidance on Sponsored Research criteria, how it is administered, and what happens if your project is not classified as Sponsored Research.

How is Sponsored Research defined?

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Sponsored Research is defined by six criteria set by Research England and the Charity Commission.

1. The funding source must be external to, and independent of, UCL

2. The project must meet the Frascati Definition of Research, i.e., 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.

  • Be novel ­- (aimed at new findings)
  • Be creative - (based on original, not obvious, concepts and hypotheses)
  • Be uncertain -  about the final outcome  
  • Be systematic - (planned and budgeted)
  • Be transferrable - (Lead to results that can be reproduced)

3. The project scope (objectives and plan) must be subject to external (i.e. Funders') scrutiny and normally agreed at the outset (as required by HESA).

4. Performance-related conditions must exist e.g. outcomes must be reported to Funders.

5. Funding terms must support publication within a reasonable timeframe and allow for results to be used for academic purposes. 

6. Public benefit should not be incidental (i.e. the benefit to the Funder or collaborator, if not a public body, should not significantly outweigh the benefit to the public).

Why does it matter?

Income classified as ‘sponsored research’ counts towards UCL’s research volume and is returned in the REF exercise. It is therefore an important measure of UCL’s research environment. Furthermore, certain types of sponsored research attract additional HEFCE income, these are:

  • Charity funding sponsored research (if open competition and external peer-reviewed)
  • Commercially funded sponsored research.

How is the classification of Sponsored Research decided?

Award Services is responsible for ensuring UCL complies with the relevant requirements and regulations for sponsored research (the six criteria). To do this we need to assess:

  • The purpose of funding/aim of project/nature of the transaction
  • UCL’s role in the project
  • The conditions attached to the funding
  • Existence of an externally evaluated project scope
  • Existence of performance-related conditions (PRCs).

In cases where the classification of income is unclear or is disputed, the matter will be escalated in Award Services.

How is Sponsored Research administered?

  • Award Services is the Institutional Authority for sponsored research
  • All proposals for sponsored research projects should be costed and approved in Worktribe, and authorised by Award Services, ahead of submission to the funder
  • Successful awards (on agreed terms) are set up in MyFinance as Sponsored Research.

What happens if your project does not meet the criteria and is not classified as Sponsored Research?

For projects that do not meet the sponsored research criteria, we offer support to a wider set of research and innovation projects through our Innovation Service.

Our triage tool is also available to help you identify the right UCL service for your project (UCL login required).