Grant Application FAQs

How do I go about applying for a grant?

• Firstly, identify a piece of research that you wish to carry out. Identify a funding opportunity you wish to apply for or talk to the Research Facilitators who will be able to help you identify suitable options. Once you have found something interesting, please let us know. The deadline usually arrives sooner than you think…
• Familiarise yourself with the scheme details and guidance – what the funder offers, what the restrictions/eligibility rules are, and what the funder is looking for from you.
• Identify what resources you will need in order to carry out the project you’re proposing.
• Talk to your Research Facilitator about the costs of the research. We will put the resources into X5 (the University’s costing tool) and generate a costing for you. This will provide you with detailed budget information to put into your application. We can also explain what any of the cost items mean and why they need to be included so please ask us if you are unsure about anything.
• You are likely to submit your application electronically, so familiarise yourself with the system your funder uses and give us access (so we can enter your budget, for instance).
• Complete the application form and send it to your Research Facilitator. We will read it, and if time permits give you feedback and ensure it meets the funder’s requirements.
• Once your budget is final, and your proposal is nearing completion, we will seek departmental and institutional approval for your application. Please allow up to 2 weeks for this. Most funders’ online systems will allow for this process but in some cases, your proposal would go straight to the funder, so please ask us before you press submit!

What is Full Economic Cost (FEC)?

FEC is how we calculate the total costs to Oxford of undertaking a research project or other related activity. It includes an element of investment in the University’s infrastructure to enable us to conduct research in a sustainable manner. Higher Education Institutions are required to use this methodology to calculate costs for grants from UK Governmental funding bodies, and we also use this to inform pricing for grants/contracts from elsewhere. FEC includes:
• Directly Incurred (DI) costs – staff and non-staff costs that are only incurred because of your project.
• Directly Allocated (DA) costs – staff and non-staff costs that are shared between several projects. Costs for permanent academic staff fall under this category, as do Estates costs which include the costs associated with maintaining and running the labs and offices in which the research is conducted. Infrastructure technicians are also included in this category: these are technicians whose time cannot be attributed to specific projects, but who are essential to the running of the labs.
• Indirect costs – other costs which are necessary for underpinning research but cannot be charged to specific projects, including central facilities, basic IT equipment and administration
No funder pays the full economic costs of a research project, but UKRI and some others pay 80%. Most funders pay direct costs only, plus a fixed percentage of ‘overheads’. In FEC speak, overheads are the sum of DA and Indirect costs.
Further details, including how the rates calculated, are available here: https://researchsupport.admin.ox.ac.uk/costing-pricing/costing

Why should I include my time and charge it to a grant (permanent academic staff)?

Your time contribution is a key part of any research proposal, and the University is required to recover all of its research costs through the FEC methodology. The UK funders expect to see your time included in a grant. You don’t need to justify the cost, only the time you are spending on the project. The level of time you are proposing to spend on a grant is often used to assess whether it is going to be feasible for you to achieve the aims of the proposal therefore it is worthwhile to include a substantial fraction of your time.

What if there is a budget limit or I’m worried that my grant will be too expensive?

• Staff costs - Reviewers will expect to see that you are contributing a realistic amount of time for the research you’re proposing to cover (eg, but not limited to) supervision of PDRAs, project management and dissemination of the results. If you try to unrealistically minimise the amount of time you contribute to the grant it might appear that you don’t have a good understanding of the effort which will be required to deliver what you’re proposing.
• Non-staff costs - Talk to your Research Facilitator who will produce a draft costing for you. If you are over budget, your facilitator will work with you to produce a budget and proposal that falls within the budget limit or to re-scope the project so that it can be delivered within the budget. Please do be upfront about what the costs of your research are likely to be. We can help you to secure other funding if what is being offered is unlikely to be enough, but we can’t do that if we don’t know what you need.
• Where there is no budget limit, you should apply for anything you can justify for your project – within the funder’s eligible costs. In terms of equipment, where permitted, there might be matched-funding required from the Department, so this needs to be discussed in more depth.

• It's important that you are able to give us realistic details of your costs. Please don’t be tempted to reduce them in order to make your application seem better value. Reviewers are looking to see that you have a realistic understanding of what resources you will need to carry out the research that you’re proposing. Funders may choose not to fund certain elements of your proposal but this doesn’t usually affect the decision of whether to fund the project or not.

What is a justification of resources?

Many funders will require you to justify the funding that you’re requesting. You need to justify all of the direct costs of your research including research staff, travel, consumables, equipment etc. It is not sufficient to simply list the resources, you need to explain why they are necessary at that level in order to carry out the research you’ve proposed. You also need to justify the amount of time you’re spending on your grant. Directly allocated and Indirect costs (overhead-type costs) do not require justification. Speak to your facilitator if you’re not sure how to justify any of your costs.

What is an X5 and why do we have to use it?

X5 is the University’s costing and pricing tool. The Research Facilitators will use it to turn your resource list into a fully formed costing which will then provide the accurate figures required for your application form. It will also calculate the institutional costs that are compulsory to include in most applications. For funders which don’t pay FEC, the difference between what your research will cost and what the funder will pay will help approvers to determine whether the project is viable. If it isn’t, we can usually work with you to identify additional funding etc.
You don’t need to worry about learning how to use X5 in detail – we will do that for you. You will however be required to log in and approve your costings as part of the institutional approval process for all grant applications. We can go through a print-out of the budget with you if you are unsure about any of the budget items.

How do I request the use of research facilities?

We have access to details of all of the SRFs (Small Research Facilities) within the Department and elsewhere in the University. Please let us know which facilities you wish to use and how much access you will require (in days or hours, as appropriate), and we can work out how much that will cost. Supercomputing facilities are usually charged as CPU hours.