Financial administration of research projects
Important information for financially administering your research project.
Ensure you are aware of the official start date of the project. This is normally the first date on which expenditure can be incurred.
The start date may be flexible, which means it will depend on the date the work actually starts. It may also be fixed and specified in the contract, which means the project period runs from that date.
If the start date is amended by mutual agreement let Research Grants and Contracts (RGC) know. This often affects when invoices need to be submitted and may require a contract amendment.
It is normally appropriate to start the project with staff costs. If the project is due to run for 36 months, and the Research Officer is appointed for 36 months, the two dates will need to run concurrently. See also Guidance for employing staff on research projects.
There may be instances where expenditure is allowed prior to the start date of the project, to enable set-up costs. If the project does not start the Department is responsible for the costs incurred.
Before expenditure is incurred on your project make sure you are aware of the budget. If a budget was submitted with your proposal, check that it has not been amended in the award.
There are different types of budget and it is important to understand which applies to your project. Theses are:
Cash Limited Budgets
The budget awarded will not be subject to any increases during the duration of the project. Inflation and incremental rises over the life of the project are already built in to the budget. This may have implications for your staff budget, especially if staff are appointed at a higher grade than has been awarded e.g. Research Councils and most Charities.
Budgets are often shown on an annual basis. Some sponsors may allow you to carry forward any unspent balances from previous periods to supplement later period budgets. Ensure that the rollover is not just confined to one period, i.e. that any underspend can be carried forward indefinitely.
Any unspent balances from one budget period cannot be carried forward to future budget periods. It is therefore very important to ensure that budgets for each period are fully utilised.
It is vital to know and understand the rules and regulations of the sponsor as these will normally specify which items of expenditure are allowable. Some items may be specifically disallowed or other items may need the prior approval of you sponsor.
If you are unsure whether an item of expenditure is allowable contact Post-Award for advice. It is the Principal Investigators responsibility to ensure only valid and justifiable expenditure is charged, and many projects are subject to financial audit.
Virement is the authority to move part of one budget heading to supplement another budget heading.
Some sponsors allow virement up to a certain percentage of the budget heading, without their prior approval. However, certain expenditure headings may be restricted (e.g. equipment and movement between Directly Incurred and Directly Allocated headings for Research Councils).
You will almost always need to request permission for virement from the funder, if it will lead to a change in the basic nature of the work programme.
Justification for virement may be required in the final report, and possibly in the report for the period in which the virement occurred.
The majority of sponsors reimburse the University on the basis of actual expenditure incurred. This requires expenditure statements to be submitted. Research Grants and Contracts (RGC) normally complete these statements. However, we may require assistance from the Departmental Administrator or Investigator. Cost statements will always be checked with the Department prior to submission to the funder.
Frequency of claims
This will vary with the sponsor. The majority of claims are prepared on a quarterly in arrears basis, usually at the end of calendar quarters, although some sponsors require them at monthly or other intervals.
Ensure you know the end date of the project. This will be the last day on which expenditure can be incurred on the project. Any items must have been ordered and received in the University before this date. Depending on the sponsor, there may be restrictions on certain types of expenditure in the last few months of your project.
It is important to be aware of the reporting requirements of your sponsor. They can have serious implications, which can result in the entire award being lost. RGC will normally be required to submit a final claim to the sponsor within a certain time period. The actual time allowed for submission will vary with the sponsor. RGC will always obtain confirmation from the principal investigator or Department that they are in agreement with the final figures, before submitting the claim.
Procedure PR1 of the financial procedure is the University's policy in dealing with balances remaining on research projects and the treatment of exchange losses and gains.
It may be necessary to apply for an extension to your project. There are two types of extension:
Time only extensions
This allows you to complete the original work. This may allow to continue spending the original budgets, but this should be established when the extension is agreed.
Time and additional funding
This is the same as above plus additional funding. This will need to be handled via the Pre-Award contact.
RCUK Terms and Conditions
Research Councils UK provide terms and conditions for their grants. See the RCUK Grant Terms and Conditions.