How to prepare an application for research funding

Where do I begin?

Preparing a research application involves so much more than simply writing a proposal. You must consider funders’ rules, your eligibility for the call, the resources you will need, your budget, any ethical or data management implications for the project, and a timeframe for the application. Good planning will pay off once the grant is up and running, and so you must ensure you have thought through your plan in detail, and involved the right people during the preparation stage.

Before starting, you must read the call guidance carefully to ensure your proposal fits with the scheme and that the costs you wish to include are eligible. Our Research Development Managers can assist with advising on eligibility, offering one-to-one guidance for researchers seeking out appropriate funding opportunities.

Once you have determined that you are eligible, and that the scheme in question fits your research well, you’ll need to contact your Research Services Officer (RSO) for guidance on how to proceed.


Who is my RSO?

Kathryn Sciences (UK based funders and projects)

Judyta Golding -, supporting Arts & Humanities and MEL (UK based funders and projects)

Eliza Bailey, supporting all applications to international funders (including EU) (all schools)


Want to get started on your proposal? Read our Costing and Pricing Policy and follow these steps:

Helpful guides:

Application to Award

Full Economic Costing (fEC)

Roles in Research

Budgeting your Project

Code of Good Research Practice

Need further guidance?

Contact Research & Innovation

Read our Costing and Pricing Policy

Consider your application timeline

How long will the application process take?

Preparing a competitive and high quality research proposal takes time - often several months. Here is a standard timeline for a grant application:


Planning and finalising the grant budget usually involves several iterations to ensure that the resource request is appropriate, in line with the project activities, and compliant with funder guidelines. The RSO will work closely with you on all aspects of budget preparation.

Please contact your RSO as soon as you start you grant application. The sooner we know about the plans, the better - this will allow us to give more targeted support for the development of your proposal. We endeavour to get back to you within 3 working days.

If your grant application includes equipment or has complex requirements, you must contact us as early on as possible so that we can ensure appropriate support for your project.

Read our Costing and Pricing policy for information about internal timelines for costings and approvals.

Refer to our Application to Award guide for more details on the process.

If your project will involve external co-investigators, collaborators, consultants or otherwise, please refer to our Roles in Research guide for details on how to include these individuals at application stage.


Plan your Budget

Planning your budget

The budget is a key component of your research project, enabling you to implement the activities set out in your project plan. It is important to take time to plan your budget carefully to ensure that it appropriately supports the delivery of your research proposal.

Try to be realistic about your resource needs - it's important to neither exaggerate nor underestimate your costs. Always bear in mind that you won't be able to increase your budget once the grant is awarded.

Always check the funder guidance to ensure that the request is eligible and fits with the requirements of the scheme. Funders and schemes vary in terms of budget limits and reimbursement. Consult your Research Services Officer if you are unsure about what can be requested.

New to budgeting? See our Budgeting your Project guide, which lays out what you should consider at application stage.

What can I include in my budget?

Your RSO will confirm what resources can be requested, depending on the nature of the funding call. Generally funder will support some of the following:

  • Staff Time - Staff costs are often the largest element in your budget. Start by considering how much time you will need to dedicate to the project, who else you will need to include (e.g. Co-Investigators or Technicians), and the levels of expertise required. Staff costs will be calculated  by your RSO to ensure they are correct and take into account inflation, employers costs etc. Including external participants? Please see our Roles in Research guide for more information on how to include these individuals.
  • Research Assistance - Will you be hiring a PDRA in your project? You will need to the start date, duration of the contract and the grade you were planning to hire them at. You may also need to factor in recruitment costs. Please bear in mind that you won’t be able to increase the budget for the PDRA salary at a later stage, and so please bear this in mind when determining grade and spine point.
  • Equipment - Please contact R&I at the earliest possible point if you are planning to include equipment in your grant application. Contact the Procurement Team to make sure you are also aware of the procurement timelines and processes in purchasing equipment.
  • Travel - You may also need to factor in travel and subsistence costs, in which case you will need to consult the college's Travel, Subsistence and Personal Expenses Policy.
  • Consumables - These costs might include consumables, access charges and minor equipment (< £10,000). 
  • Dissemination Costs - These costs might include costs of a conference, workshop or seminar (e.g. room hire, catering, travel and subsistence for speakers etc). You may also want to include costs for publicity materials or a website and, where eligible, publication costs should be included to cover open access charges.
  • Estates, Indirects & Infrastructure Technicians - These form part of the FEC costs. They are a ‘cost’ on all projects, but whether or not they can be charged, or the rate at which they can be charged, will differ by funder. Please refer to R&I for advice on FEC reimbursement rate.


Understand FEC methodology

What is FEC?

All UK universities are required to use FEC ('Full Economic Costing') methodology when costing research grant applications. This is a standardised costing methodology for research. FEC estimates the full cost of undertaking the research project – i.e. how much it costs the institution.

The FEC amount is not always the same as the price of a research project. The price is the amount the funder will pay. Many funders do not pay the full FEC cost of a project, and pricing policies between funder types and funding schemes vary.

Read our Full Economic Costing (fEC) guide for more information.

FEC cost categories are divided into three types:

Directly Incurred Costs - costs which arise as a direct consequence of the project (i.e. would not incur otherwise), charged as the actual cash value spent and must be supported by an audit record (e.g. an invoice).

Directly Allocated Costs - costs estimated at project level and shared by other activities. These are charged to the grant as estimates and would incur regardless of the project taking place.

Indirect Costs - estimated costs of central and distributed services shared by other activities.

Cost examples in each category include:

  • Staff employed including postdoctoral researchers and administrators
  • Travel including conference attendance meetings and workshops
  • Consumables and software licences
  • Equipment
  • Investigator time
  • Estates, facilities, utilities
  • Infrastructure technicians (lab based departments)
  • Finance
  • Human resources
  • Library


Costing your project

The budget is a key component of your research project, enabling you to implement the activities set out in your project plan. Try to be as realistic as you can about your resource needs, and build in some flexibility.

Always check the funder guidance to ensure that the request is eligible and fits with the requirements of the scheme. Funders and schemes vary in budget limits and cost eligibility. Consult your Research Services Officer if you’re unsure about what can be requested.

Please ensure that the costing request is sent, at the very latest, three weeks before the submission deadline. This is to ensure that your application can be properly supported, and the budget can be reviewed and approved (internal approvals are expected to be sent 5 working days before the application deadline).

Please visit our internal pages for more detailed budget guidance. Our budget guide can be found here.

Please provide your RSO with as much of the following information as possible. Where there is a funding limit, it is advisable to consider the staff costs at a very early stage as they can be more expensive than expected, and can therefore limit your workplan.

Call and link
Project title If this is not fixed by the funder, we would recommend factoring in time for grant set-up, any agreements (e.g. collaboration), and recruitment of new staff
Project start date
Project duration
Staff time

Please include all RHUL staff involved, even if the cost cannot be requested for funding.

- PI

- Co-I(s)

- Other staff (e.g. PDRA, technician, admin, casual assistant, etc.) - please include start date and duration if not for the whole project. Please name if known.

Equipment Individual items > £10,000 (incl. any applicable VAT).
Other directly incurred costs

Please check the eligibility of your costs against the funder guidance.

Costs may include:

- Travel & subsistence

- Conference fees

- Consumables

- Software licences and warranties

- Access charges - e.g. MRI, mass spec etc

- Professional fees (consultancy and other services)

- Training costs

- Publication costs

- Workshop organisation - please separate out venue hire, catering, travel expenses etc

Additional resources required For example office space, lab or IT facilities, bid requires College financial contribution
Any external co-applicants, project partners, collaborators, sub-contracts? Please see our 'Roles in Research' guide for definitions.



Good Research Practice

Be sure to think about components of your research that are key to maintaining integrity, ensuring that you fulfil you responsibilities as outlined in the Concordat to Support Research Integrity and the Code of Good Research Practice.

Research Ethics – Does your research project include ethical issues and risks that require mitigations? Are the mitigations embedded in your research design? Have you considered the college's Safeguarding in Research policy? Please contact if you have queries related to research ethics.

Data Management - Have you considered how you will safely store research data throughout the research lifecycle? Have you prepared a data management plan? Please contact if you have queries related to research data management and if you have queries related to research data protection.

IT – Have the IT systems you intend to use been approved by the College? Do current systems fail to meet your requirements? For IT related questions please contact

Legal Requirements – Are there any legal concerns regarding the activity you intend to undertake? Do you need advice from legal counsel? For legal related queries please contact

Governance – Are you familiar with the governance structure within your school, has your project been reviewed by your peers?

Health and Safety – Are there health and safety risks within your project? Will research participants be put at risk? Will you need to complete a risk assessment or COSHH form? For Health and Safety related queries please contact

Equality and Diversity – Have you met equality and diversity requirements? Will you need to complete an equality impact assessment to ensure that you have addressed potential issues? For equality and diversity related queries please contact

Insurance – Will your project require additional insurance? Have these costs been included in your budget? For insurance related queries, please contact