Competitive Research Funding and Research-Related Funding

The following workflow sets out a check-list and timelines:

  • To ensure that colleagues in RKE and Finance can manage workloads and give the best possible service to applicants in the pre-award phase.
  • To ensure that academic colleagues have the opportunity to engage fully in the peer review process, and that informed decisions are made with respect to:
    • donors, 
    • match-funding, 
    • costing, including liaising with professional services teams eg Estates (operation/storage of equipment), Digital Services (installation of specific software or handling of sensitive data), HR (commitment of existing staff time or the requirement to recruit)
    • and that any required letters of support are thoroughly prepared.
  • We recognise that there will be exceptions to this process and timeline (for example, smaller bids; calls with very short deadlines; high-value, multi-partner bids) which will require a more flexible approach. In all cases, please contact your SFM/ADR (see Key Contacts) as soon as possible to discuss and to agree specific deadlines.

Table 1: Pre-Award Workflow for Competitive Research Funding and Research-Related Funding 

 

Diagram depicting pre-award workflow.

 

It is mandatory that ALL bids for research grants and awards need to be entered onto Agresso and Research Costing and Pricing (ARCP) by RKE, with appropriate input and sign-off from RKE and Finance. 

For large, strategic bids, applicants also need to start discussions with their Associate Dean Research/Executive Dean as soon as possible regarding the requirement for any matched funding, completing due diligence re industrial funder/donor and a letter of support. 

As part of the University’s planning to address the financial challenges posed by Covid-19, we have adopted a more active approach to managing our research bids, covering both volume and financial parameters. The University has put in place a set of measures across a range of funders which are summarised in Table 2 (below) and are operational from 1 June 2020.

Table 2: Summary of active management of research bids 

FunderNumber and volume of bidsFinancial parameters / comments
UKRI, including GCRF, ISCF and InnovateNo restrictions

Standard 0.2 FTE PI time      
Standard 0.1 FTE CI time

Doctoral training (UKRI and Charity)No restrictionsSubject to College approval of matched funding element
Fellowships, incl. UKRI, RAEng and LevelhulmeNo restrictionsSubject to college approval of any matched funding elements or commitment to appointment beyond fellowship 
Charities (e.g. British Academy, Leverhulme, Wellcome, Newton)No restrictionsSubject to College agreement for any matched funding contribution, for instance for equipment
EU Cluster (work programme) + Pathfinder callsNo restrictions Standard 0.2 FTE PI time      
Standard 0.1 FTE CI time
EU ERC No restrictionsScheme specific
EU Marie S Curie (MSCA) - RISEUp to 5 bids p.a. across the institutionExpectation is that 1-2 are funded
EU MUSCA FellowshipsUp to 20 bids p.a. across the institutionExpectation is that 2-3 are funded
EU MSCA Doctorates (formerly ITNs)To be decided by the College, with approval from Executive Dean 
EU COFUNDNo longer supported 
Industry funding via charitable donationsNo longer supported - refer to Industry fundingDonations for equipment and consumables up to £20,000, plus for PhD studentship, will still be accepted.
Industry fundingNo restrictionsStandard 100% fEC and no lower than 50% contributions on overall income
UK GovernmentNo restrictionsStandard 100% fEC and no lower than 50% contributions on overall income
Other overseas funding (excluding PhD studentships)No restrictionsStandard 100% fEC and no lower than 50% contributions on overall outcome
Research-related, incl. ERDF, Shared Prosperity Fund, Strength in PlacesTo be decided by the College, with approval from Executive DeanCollege agreement required for any matched funding contribution

Please note:

  • The matched funding element of bids should be agreed at least ten working days before the submission deadline (see Figure 1). We expect all colleagues to take note of this deadline and work with their SFM to ensure that matched funding is agreed with ADR/Executive Dean and bids have costings completed at least 5 working days before the deadline, leave adequate time for internal approval in the final week prior to submission. If this timeline for bid development is not met, we do not guarantee that the University will allow the grant to be submitted, particularly when grants are complex and/or involve multiple partners.
  • Where applicants wish to diverge from the provisions in Table 2, approval of both the Executive Dean of the College and the PVC Research will be required. In such cases, it is particularly important to involve SFMs in early discussions regarding bids.
  • We recognise the importance of certain schemes (such as British Academy small grants and charity funding) for ECRs in developing a track record of funding success.
  • Where bid numbers/volumes are specified, the selection process will be overseen by RKE.
Bid Development

Bid development is an iterative process, and the way in which the team of academics and professional service staff in RKE and Finance work together is key to success. Not all bids will follow the same pattern in terms of their development, but the following elements are common to most and they tend to overlap, rather than following a linear model: 

  1. Proposal development, including working with non-Aston partners where relevant (academics/RKE)
  2. Formative peer review (RKE lead), working with academics within and beyond the host College)
  3. Costing (Finance lead, working with RKE/academic to add and check all elements versus funder requirements and to maximise opportunities). It is important that bids are realistically costed (with all eligible options investigated), rather than cheaply costed. It includes interpretation of call document and funder guidance/requirements for particular schemes; questioning the requirements of the academics; clarifying skills required from post-docs in order to deliver the research; accurate estimation of time and resources required to complete different elements of work packages.
  4. Requirements in respect of research facilities, to ensure that there is capacity to run the research within the desired timeframe and that it is appropriately costed (Finance lead, working with RKE and academic)
  5. Matched-funding requirements from College/University (academic or RKE led in discussion with ADR/Executive Dean/PVC-R/Finance)
  6. Industrial/business contributions – cash or in-kind (academic, RKE or DARO lead)
  7. Contract development (RKE). For bids that involve the participation of a company (e.g. Royal Society short industry fellowships) the applicant should discuss with RKE (Awards and Contracts Specialist and Business Development Manager) before submission if it is necessary to sign and NDA and/or a MoU.  The industrial party should be informed of the funder’s terms and conditions of the award, which can be provided by RKE also prior submission, and confirm that they are willing to accept them. If required, discussions related to a collaboration agreement can start at any stage.  
  8. Letters of support (academic or RKE lead)
Decision-making

Stage one:

  1. Local peer review requirements (relevant for funder/value of bid) are satisfied. If not then the bid does not progress through peer review; it may go back into the development phase. (RKE lead, working with ADR/College research lead)
  2. Industry funder/donor approved, match-funding confirmed and approved by College/University as relevant. If not approved, then the bid may go back into the development phase (RKE/academic lead working with ADR/Executive Dean/Finance/DARO)

Stage two: 

  1. Finance lead to ensure completion of costing and compliance with funder requirements (with academic lead and partners (where relevant) and RKE).
  2. SFM/GCO to ensure completion of letter of support, including alignment of all finances, partner contributions and matched funding
ARCP System Workflow Approval

At this stage, if a team approach has been taken, all questions should have been answered, issues dealt with and corrections made. Final sign-off takes place through the ARCP system workflow approvals in the following order:

  1. Finance 
  2. RKE (Research (SFM); KE (JR); Donations (CD))
  3. ADR/Executive Dean 
  4. Over £1m Chief Operating Officer; over £2m Vice-Chancellor; over £5M Council approval is required
International Due Diligence

Working with any partner involves risk, which could be reputational, financial or operational. All colleagues are responsible for ensuring that relationships with external partners are properly considered and (where appropriate) authorised. Our Due Diligence pages provide guidance on how to ensure compliance. 

New applications

Details of Major Research Funders, their priorities and funding opportunities

Relevant contacts for further information are below:

Key Contacts

Key RKE, Finance and College contacts. 

Business and Social Sciences 

Strategic Funding Manager: Ronni Littlewood

Grants and Contracts Manager: Suzie Hayman

Finance: Matt Cooper and Cassie McKenna

Business Development Manager: Zaheda Teladia

Associate Dean Research: Professor Nicholas O'Regan

Executive Dean: Professor George Feiger

Research Donations: Christiane Dickens, Director Of Advancement, Alumni Relations And Development

Engineering and Physical Sciences 

Strategic Funding Manager: Dr Purbani Chakrabarti

Grants and Contracts Manager: Dr Angels Odena

Finance: Cassie McKenna and Hafsa Ghuman

Business Development Manager: Andrea Fotticchia 

Associate Dean Research: Professor Patricia Thornley

Executive Dean: Professor Stephen Garrett

Research Donations: Christiane Dickens, Director Of Advancement, Alumni Relations And Development

Health and Life Sciences 

Strategic Funding Manager: Dr Jen Whale

Grants and Contracts Manager: Dr Karina Tveen Jensen

Finance: Matt Cooper 

Business Development Manager: Matthew Vassey 

Associate Dean Research: Professor Roslyn Bill

Executive Dean: Professor Anthony Hilton

Research Donations: Christiane Dickens, Director Of Advancement, Alumni Relations And Development