Research Services


Sponsored Research Criteria

What are criteria for Sponsored Research?

Research Services is responsible for determining whether funding meets the six criteria of Externally Sponsored Research as required by HEFCE and the Charity Commission i.e.

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

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 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

It is important to be aware that research partner / collaborator income is excluded from UCL’s research volume e.g. if UCL receives an award for £1m, but £0.7m is to be allocated to another university, only £0.3m will count as UCL’s research volume.

How is the classification of Sponsored Research decided?

Research Services is responsible for ensuring UCL’s complies with the relevant requirements and regulations for sponsored research (the five 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)

Research Income Classification Group


In cases where the classification of income is unclear, or the decision cannot be reached, or is disputed, the matter should be referred to the ‘Research Income Classification Group’ for decision using the Case Referral Form.  The group, chaired by the Director of Research Services, includes senior representatives from Innovation & Enterprise, School Finance and OVPR, will collectively consider cases referred to them.   The PI or their representative shall be invited to join the relevant case meeting.

2017/18 Meeting Dates: 

- 15th of August 2017                        - 6th of February 2018

- 12th of September 2017                  - 13th of March 2018

- 18th of October 2017                       - 17th of April 2018

- 14th of November 2017                    - 8th of May 2018

- 12th of December 2017                    - 5th of June 2018

- 9th of January 2018                         - 10th of July 2018

Please contact Adelaide Amoafo (a.amoafo@ucl.ac.uk, x58698) for further advice.

Why is income classification important?

UCL’s accounting of external income is governed by a number of regulatory frameworks including: HEFCE requirements, Financial Reporting Standards (FRS102), Tax Law (UCL must maintain clear separation between primary purpose charitable activity - including research; philanthropy; consultancy / services and other 'trading' activity) and Charity Law (HEI research must be useful, the outcomes disseminated, and be conducted wholly or mainly for public benefit). As such UCL is obliged to distinctly administer different types of activity e.g. 'Sponsored research', 'Consultancy', 'Other' etc. UCL is subject to regular audit by our regulating bodies.

How is Sponsored Research administered?

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