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 from, 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 if it Sponsored Research?

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’s 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 within 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 the decision cannot be reached, or is disputed the matter is referred to the Research Income Classification Group.

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?

If your research project doesn’t meet the criteria, please contact your Department Manager for advice on how your project could be supported.

It could be that your project work is:

  • Classified as Innovation and you could receive support through our Innovation Service
  • Classified as consultancy and you could receive support from UCLC
  • Classified as a donation and you could receive support from OVPA.

If you have further questions, contact Award Services.