Research and Innovation Services


Understanding the Research Funding Environment

6 February 2020

How we categorise our research projects has an impact on the funding we receive which makes it essential we do this correctly.

Research funding

In January 2020, Research England conducted an audit on the processes and procedures UCL has in place to ensure the research projects we categorise as sponsored research are done so correctly.

What is Sponsored Research?

Sponsored Research is defined by six criteria set by Research England and the Charity Commission, and are in line with UK General Accepted Accounting Practice (FRS 102). Projects categorised as a sponsored research count towards UCL’s research volume so must meet a strict criteria.

Learn more about the six criteria your project must comply with to be categorised as sponsored research.

Why does it matter if it is categorised correctly?

Sponsored research income determines our higher education quality-related research (QR) funding. If we overstate our sponsored research income we would receive more QR funding than we are entitled to. Not only would UCL be required to return funding, but we would be subject to sanction and reputational damage.

How can you help?

Please ensure only projects that meet the six criteria of sponsored research are submitted via Worktribe to Research Services. If your project does not meet the above criteria this should be submitted via the appropriate channels to either:

More information about research funding in the UK

Research England funding: for the ‘whole’ institution (recurrent and non-recurrent)

Research England provide funding to ensure that higher education providers have the capacity to undertake high quality innovative research, and to contribute to supporting the research infrastructure. Most of our funding is un-allocated – it may contribute towards the costs of salaries for permanent academic staff, premises, libraries or central computing, among other things. It supports fundamental and ‘blue skies’ research conducted by institutions, and contributes to the cost of training new researchers. This research is the foundation of strategic and applied work, much of which is later supported by research councils, charities, industry and commerce. 

There are two types of Research England funding:

  • Recurrent Funding: grant allocated annually to higher education institutions for research and knowledge exchange. This is the main mechanism for Research England funding.  
  • Non-Recurrent Funding: designed by Research England to provide incentives to deliver strategic aims and Government priorities for research and knowledge exchange in the higher education sector.

Research Councils: for individual projects / programmes (grants and fellowships)

Research Councils provide funding to support specific programmes and projects, and some research students. A number of other public bodies also distribute government funding to support various other aspects of higher education research and knowledge exchange.