Costing and Pricing a Research Project – getting the resources you need
Find the best source of funding for you and ask for the maximum eligible costs that you can justify.
In the process of writing a winning Case for Support, Pathway to Impact, Management Plan and all the other documentation essential for a successful proposal, the budget – the money for the resources you need – can get left to the end. The competitive nature of the grant process, along with the apparent complexity of funding, can lead to a mistaken perception of pressure to keep the final total minimal or in line with previous applications. Where all eligible project costs are requested and clearly justified, linked to the case and to the aims, evidence shows that reviewers and funders do not object to price. On unsuccessful grant applications it is not unusual to see reviewer comment that the Principal Investigator or team has not charged enough time to the grant or has not asked for appropriate resources to carry out the aims of the project.
There are two major reasons why you and any partners should compile a realistic and complete budget for your project throughout the process of building the bid: to ensure that reviewers see that you understand the resources you will need for the scope of your proposal and to make sure that throughout your project you are sufficiently funded to meet your research plans.
It’s important that all partners identify, request and justify all eligible costs. The alternative can be shortfalls in funding, leading to cross-subsidy or inability to carry out all tasks. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and will vary hugely dependent on research area, but consider:
What do I (we) need to perform this research? This is by no means an exhaustive list, and will vary hugely dependent on research area, but consider:
Staff, type and time
Principal and Co-investigators
Project managers, clerical support, impact, public engagement, computing, technical
Visiting researchers, mentors
Travel, conferences, networking, management meetings
Equipment or access to equipment
Collaborator costs including NHS
What will my funder pay? Different funders have different approaches to funding and to eligible costs. Don’t assume that a funder won’t pay – check this out properly. Your Portfolio Manager will do this for you.
What is the funding basis? It will often be fEC (full economic costing – the standard costing basis used by all UK universities) and your project will always be costed using fEC in any case. However, the funder may not pay fEC or it may use different terminology. It may pay more or less than fEC. It’s important to understand how to take best advantage within the funding rules. Your Portfolio Manager is here to help you do that.
Also consider if another funder may fund the same or complementary activity but with more generous funding. Talk to your Portfolio Manager about expanding your funder search (Research Professional).
What are the relevant University of Edinburgh requirements when applying for research funding? Your Portfolio Manager can advise, but there are some University and local policies that you should be aware of:
- For some funders we must take a uniform approach across the University. For example, with the exception of Fellowships, all PIs and Co-Is on RCUK/UKRI or other fEC funders or fEC schemes will be Directly Allocated.
- Unless demanded by the scheme, all JeS/UKRI joint proposals should use separate and linked JeS forms
- To add facilities or access or data storage charges or data storage to the application, you must go through the manager of that resource who will provide you with appropriate costs based on the funder rules. Each school has local experts and managers who will help you.
- All research applications will be costed using fEC and priced within the funder rules in the University costing system. Always make sure you engage early with your Portfolio Manager, Business Development colleagues and facility managers to inform the bid.
- Collaborator and partner costs which make up part of the grant funding application should come from/to the Research Support Office or equivalent office in each organisation and be retained for award and collaboration agreement breakdown
- Bid approval, governance and ethics processes take time but are essential – be aware not only of how long your process will take but also that of your partners. Allow for that in your timeline.
- Schools or Centres may have local resources for inclusion in funding applications depending on the nature of the work to be undertaken. Go through the appropriate channels (your Portfolio Manager) for all costs.
Summary: Find the best source of funding for you and ask for the maximum eligible costs that you can justify.
 It’s important that all partners identify, request and justify all eligible costs. The alternative can be shortfalls in funding leading to cross-subsidy or inability to carry out all tasks.
 REF Definition: Research assistants are individuals who are/will be on the payroll of and hold a contract of employment with the institution. They are academic staff whose primary employment function is defined as ‘research only’. They are employed to carry out another individual’s research programme rather than as independent researchers in their own right.
 For example, a Research Council asks for application costs without inflation while many charities do not pay indirect or estate costs, or a commercial bid will take fEC as a basis but set a competitive price. US Federal funders may set overhead costs at a % of direct costs in a similar methodology to European Commission.