Guidance

Roles in funding applications: eligibility, responsibilities and costings guidance

From:
UKRI
Published:
Last updated:
4 July 2023

This guidance sets out the different roles on a project team when applying to a funding opportunity from UKRI or one of its research councils.

How to use this guidance

UKRI has three main services that you can use to apply for funding:

  • UKRI Funding Service – a new service used by the seven research councils
  • Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system – in the process of being replaced by UKRI Funding Service
  • Innovation Funding Service – for funding opportunities from Innovate UK

Follow this guidance if you are applying through the UKRI Funding Service to a funding opportunity that opens on or after 22 May 2023.

To help you select roles for the members of your team, this guidance gives the:

  • role name used in the UKRI Funding Service and a short description
  • responsibilities of the role as part of a team applying for funding
  • equivalent role used in Je-S, for those familiar with this older service

There is other guidance to follow if you are applying:

Cost headings for roles

The ‘role costings’ section helps you understand which cost heading each role’s costs go under when completing an application.

Eligibility for roles

To know if you or a member of your team is eligible for a specific funding opportunity, you must check the criteria in the ‘who can apply’ section of the opportunity’s guidance.

Before you apply: discuss and agree with lead organisation

You must discuss your proposed project with the relevant people in the lead organisation before starting an application.

The lead organisation must agree to host the project and provide all the support required to deliver the project. This normally includes providing 20% of the total costs, in line with standard ‘full economic costing’ methodology. Any additional submitting organisations would also be required to cover the 20% full economic costs (FEC).

The lead organisation checks the application and confirms that the applicants are eligible to receive UKRI funding before submitting it to UKRI. The people responsible for this varies depending on the organisation.

You must share your application with your organisation with enough time to allow them to complete their checks and approvals before the closing date.

Relationship with eligible organisation

Project leads and co-leads (‘principal investigators’ and ‘co-investigators’ in Je-S) must have a substantial relationship with an organisation eligible for UKRI funding. This organisation will support them if their application is successful.

Examples of a substantial relationship with an organisation include:

  • emeritus status (that is, retired but still maintains their relationship with their department or the university)
  • honorary appointment with the organisation
  • contract with the submitting organisation, normally outlasting the duration of the project

If you do not yet work for the organisation who will hold the grant, you can still apply. However, you must first discuss with the potential organisation and get their support before you start your application.

Using roles in funding application services

The responsibilities and eligibility criteria for roles are the same in both the UKRI Funding Service and the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

However, names for most roles are different in each service.

UKRI Funding Service roles

When completing your application using the UKRI Funding Service, you are asked to:

  • name people who will make key contributions to the work as ‘team members’
  • give each member a ‘role’ in the project

Please note, any unnamed role resource, such as a research and innovation associate role where an individual has not yet been selected, should be included and justified in the resources and costs section.

There are 12 types of roles:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead UK (PcL)
  • project co-lead (international) (PcL (I))
  • researcher co-lead
  • fellow
  • grant manager
  • research and innovation associate
  • visiting researcher
  • specialist
  • technician
  • doctoral student
  • professional enabling staff

Each funding opportunity involves a specific set of these roles.

For example, a fellowship opportunity would offer ‘fellow’ as an available role but not ‘project lead’.

For all roles individuals must be based at the lead organisation or a collaborating organisation. Collaborating organisations are those organisations where Project Co-Leads are based. Team members cannot be based at any other organisation.

The information on which roles are available is given in the funding opportunity’s guidance on ukri.org.

Project partners

In addition to the listed roles, you can also add ‘project partners’ to applications in the UKRI Funding Service. There are no changes to the roles and responsibilities for project partners.

For information on the roles and responsibilities of project partners, check the ‘costings information’ section of the UKRI FEC grants: standard terms and conditions of grant guidance.

Business-based applicants

Some funding opportunities allow for people based in businesses to be project leads or co-leads. This is stated in the ‘who can apply’ section of the funding opportunity’s guidance.

If this is allowed, you should take the Subsidy Control Act 2022 into consideration when applying.

Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system roles

The existing role names listed in Je-S are not changing.

For more information on roles in Je-S, check the guidance for different types of proposals given in the Je-S Handbook.

Role descriptions and responsibilities

These are the roles used in the UKRI Funding Service.

If you are familiar with the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system, the equivalent Je-S role is also given if there is one.

Project lead (‘principal investigator’ in Je-S)

The project lead is responsible for the intellectual leadership and overall management of the project. They are the main contact for UKRI.

Usually, your application should only include one project lead. Check the funding opportunity to see if more than one project lead is allowed.

To be the project lead you must be affiliated with the ‘lead organisation’ on the application.

Students are occasionally eligible to apply for funding as a project lead. This will be explicitly stated in the ‘who can apply’ section of the funding opportunity. If the opportunity guidance does not specifically say that students can apply, then they are not eligible.

Support from the lead organisation or collaborating organisations

The lead organisation and any collaborating research organisation should have agreed to provide all necessary support for the proposed project if it is successful.

The project lead should have an explicit agreement with the organisation that this will last for at least the duration of UKRI funding.

By submitting an application, an organisation is confirming that named applicants are capable of taking part in a UKRI-funded project and will accept its relevant terms and conditions.

Project co-lead (‘co-investigator’ in Je-S)

A project co-lead UK is a member of the project leadership and management team. They may take over the leadership of the project, if required. Your team can have as many project co-leads as needed.

To be a project co-lead you must be affiliated with one of the research organisations involved in submitting the application.

Project co-lead (international) (‘overseas co-investigator’ in Je-S)

This role is available when a funding opportunity is open to individuals based at an international research organisation.

As a project co-lead (international) you assist with project leadership and management. However, you cannot take over the leadership of a project as you do not meet the residency criteria for a project lead.

Researcher co-lead (‘researcher co-investigator’ in Je-S)

A research and innovation associate who is not eligible to be a project lead or project co-lead, but has made a substantial contribution to the formulation and development of the application and will be closely involved with the project.

Fellow (‘fellow’ in Je-S)

A fellow is awarded a personal fellowship grant to undertake a project. You are responsible for the intellectual leadership of the project and its overall management.

Grant manager

A grant manager:

  • leads the administration and delivery of a project, usually a training grant rather than a research grant
  • must be employed by the lead organisation or one of the collaborating organisations

A funding opportunity normally allows either one ‘grant manager’ or one ‘project lead’ to be used in the application.

However, specific funding opportunities may allow both roles because the size or complexity of the project needs dedicated high-level administrative support. In this case, the grant manager should be a specific role in the application with justified tasks.

Research and innovation associate (‘researcher’ or postdoctoral research assistant’ in Je-S)

A research and innovation associate:

  • carries out research or innovation work on a project
  • must be employed by the lead organisation or one of the collaborating organisations

Visiting researcher (‘visiting researcher’ in Je-S)

A visiting researcher:

  • is not employed by the lead organisation or any of the collaborating organisation
  • carries out research or innovation work (or both) on the project for a limited period of time

Specialist (‘technician’ or ‘other’ in Je-S)

A specialist is an individual who brings specialist skills and intellectual input to the project, for example:

  • data scientist
  • graphic designer
  • high-level or specialist technician or librarian

To be a specialist on a project, you must be employed by the lead organisation or one of the collaborating organisations.

Technician (‘technician’ in Je-S)

A technician:

  • provides general technical support to the project as required (but not the infrastructure technician tasks, as these costs are recovered separately)
  • could be employed on a project as both a specialist and a technician, with the relevant percentage of time requested to a maximum of 100% according to the project requirements
  • must be employed by the lead organisation or one of the collaborating organisations

Doctoral student (‘student’ in Je-S)

A student studying for their doctorate who is funded by UKRI, usually through a UKRI training grant.

The ‘doctoral student’ role is for people carrying out research activities on the project as part of their doctorate studies.

Students can also be employed to carry out specific activities on a project. In these cases you should select another role type which aligns to their work on the project.

Professional enabling staff (‘other staff’ in Je-S)

Professional enabling staff:

  • provide significant professional contributions to enable the project in areas such as finance, accounting and marketing
  • must be employed by the lead organisation or one of the collaborating organisations

To use this role in an application, the individual must be supplying resource above what would be normally expected to be supplied as the general enabling activity. These activities are usually funded from the estates and indirect costs awarded to support the project.

After applying to a funding opportunity

Change in circumstances

If your circumstances change after submitting an application, you should discuss any changes with your lead organisation.

They will advise you whether the application can still go ahead or if it should be withdrawn.

Change of staff grant change requests

When you submit a ‘change of staff grant change request’ you can only select from the role types that were available at the time of your grant application.

Responsibilities if you are awarded funding

If you are awarded funding, you must:

  • comply with UKRI terms and conditions
  • carry out your project in line with the policies and process of the organisations involved
  • participate in UKRI peer review in your area of expertise, if asked

Role costings

Cost headings to use for each role

This list shows:

  • the cost headings that each role’s salary costs can be placed under in your application
  • whether the role attracts ‘estates’ and ‘indirect’ costs, in addition to salary costs

Although some roles are now eligible to attract indirect and estates costs, applying for these costs remains at the discretion of the research organisation.

If the associated indirect and estates costs are applied for, research organisations should avoid double charging these roles by ensuring that:

  • the ‘full time equivalent’ (FTE) of all roles ‘directly allocated’ or ‘directly incurred’ attracting indirect and estate costs on the award is included in the denominator of the research charge-out rates
  • costs of all roles ‘directly allocated’ or ‘directly incurred’ are excluded from the numerator of the research charge-out rates

When costing roles to a project, you must also follow the guidance for the specific funding opportunity. This might include exceptions to the standard rules.

For example, some opportunities do not allow individuals from businesses or government who have a role on a grant to attract estates and indirect costs.

Project lead

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Project co-lead UK

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Project co-lead (international)

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role does not attract estates and indirect costs, unless this is stated in the funding opportunity.

Researcher co-lead

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Fellow

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Grant manager

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Research and innovation associate

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Visiting researcher

Cost heading: Directly Incurred

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Specialist

Cost heading: Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

Technician

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

‘Infrastructure technician’ is not directly requested as a role but is covered by the estates and indirect costs calculations.

Doctoral student

Cost heading: no heading used

Professional enabling staff

Cost heading: Directly Incurred or Directly Allocated

Role may attract estates and indirect costs, providing double charging requirements are met.

When to use each cost heading

Directly Allocated

The individual’s cost is based on estimated rather than actual amounts of time spent on the project.

During the project, they are either employed by, or treated as an employee by the lead or one of the collaborating organisations.

Directly Incurred

The individual’s cost to the project is based on actual rather than estimated amounts of time to be spent on the project, usually tracked throughout the project using timesheets.

They may already be employed by one of the organisations that will be involved during the course of the project if the application is successful. But they can also be contracted in after project funds have been awarded.

Exceptions

These are directly incurred roles, for which UKRI cover 100% of their eligible remuneration costs (as opposed to the usual 80%).

Exceptions are specific to each funding opportunity and therefore not included in the list here. You will need to check the opportunity guidance for any roles that can be treated as exceptions.

Estates and Indirect costs

Support staff time, such as infrastructure technician and non-specialist (underpinning) librarian support, must be funded by estates and indirect costs.

An individual can be added under a named role that attracts estates and indirect costs and can also separately undertake tasks which are covered by the estates and indirect costs for the project.

When charging costs for ‘specialist’ or ‘technician’ roles, to avoid these costs being charged for the same individual twice, you must ensure that the percentage of their resource requested on an application is not also included within estates and indirect costs charged to the grant.

Technicians, librarians and professional enabling staff: further guidance and examples

Costing a technician

Some technician roles are now eligible to attract estates and indirect costs. This is when the role that the technician undertakes falls under the TRAC definition of research.

These technicians would normally be applied for under the ‘specialist’ or ‘technician’ role. This enables UKRI to support the Technician Concordat and links to the UKRI people and teams action plan.

Technician time spent undertaking infrastructure work, such as equipment calibration and health and safety checks, must be covered by estates and indirect costs for the project.

Worked examples of costing a technician on an application

Technician 1: an individual who is providing specialist skills, knowledge and intellectual input needed to complete specific tasks for the project. Their input is above what would normally be expected for general technical support. Their cost to the project is based on actual amounts of time, rather than estimations.

This individual should be added to the application under the ‘specialist’ role as a Directly Incurred cost and can attract estates and indirect costs.

Technician 2: an individual who is providing general technical support, specific to the project. Their cost is based on estimated rather than actual amounts of time spent on the project.

This individual should be added to the application under the ‘technician’ role as a Directly Allocated cost and can attract estates and indirect costs.

Technician 3: an individual who is undertaking infrastructure work that is not specific to the project.

This individual would not be added to the project under a specific role and their costs will be covered by the estates and indirect costs of the project.

Costing a librarian

If a project has a significant requirement for a specialist librarian (above what might normally be required and covered by ‘professional enabling staff’ costs), you will be able to include them as an individual under the ‘specialist’ role.

Costing professional enabling staff

The ‘professional enabling staff’ role is designed for those members of the project team who are making significant professional contributions to enable the project in areas such as finance, accounting, marketing and so on.

They are undertaking tasks that are specific to the project that are over and above what would be normally expected to be supplied as the general enabling activity that is usually funded from the estates and indirect costs awarded to the project.

Worked examples of costing professional enabling staff on an application:

Staff member 1: an individual who spends a significant proportion of their time undertaking finance and accounting tasks that are specific to the project. Their cost to the project is based on actual rather than estimated amounts of time.

This individual should be added to the application under the ‘professional enabling staff’ role as a Directly Incurred cost and can attract estates and indirect costs.

Staff member 2: an individual who spends a significant proportion of their time undertaking marketing tasks that are specific to the project. Their cost is based on estimated rather than actual amounts of time spent on the project.

This individual should be added to the application under the ‘professional enabling staff’ role as a Directly Allocated cost and can attract estates and indirect costs.

Staff member 3: an individual who is undertaking non-specialist enabling tasks that are not specific to the project, for example, providing general secretarial support for the department.

This individual would not be added to the project under a specific role and their costs will be covered by the estates and indirect costs of the project.

Get support with using the UKRI Funding Service

How applicants use the UKRI Funding Service

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

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