MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Met

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HPSC Research Grant Application Workshop

Members of the Health, Psychology and Social Care Faculty are invited to attend a Research Grant Application Workshop hosted by your Research Development Team.

The event has been designed for Academic members of staff who are eligible to apply for external research funding and plan on applying within the next 6 months – this includes Research Fellows on permanent contracts.

  • Date: Wednesday 27th November
  • Time: 12 – 4pm
  • Location: Brooks Building
  • Registration: Via Eventbrite.

To register for this free event please complete the form on the linked Eventbrite Page. You will be required to confirm your eligibility, give a brief summary of your planned research and funder and provide a question that you would like to ask our academic panel.

For further details please visit the Event Page or contact your Research Development Team.

Please note: This event is open to members of Health, Psychology and Social Care only.

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An Applicant’s Guide to Full Economic Costing

This article appeared on Cash for Questions, by Adam Goldberg, and Research Professional.

You’re applying for UK research council funding and suddenly you’re confronted with massive overhead costs. Adam Golberg tries to explain what you need to know.

Trying to explain Full Economic Costing is not straightforward. For current purposes, I’ll be assuming that you’re an academic applying for UK Research Council funding; that you want to know enough to understand your budget; and that you don’t really want to know much more than that.

If you do already know a lot about costing or research finances, be warned – this article contains simplifications, generalisations, and omissions, and you may not like it.

What are Full Economic Costs, and why are they taking up so much of my budget?

Full Economic Costs (fEC) are paid as part of UK Research and Innovation grants to cover a fair share of the wider costs of running the university – the infrastructure that supports your research. There are a few different cost categories, but you don’t need to worry about the distinctions.

Every UK university calculates its own overhead rates using a common methodology. I’m not going to try to explain how this works, because (a) I don’t know; and (b) you don’t need to know. Most other research funders (charities, EU funders, industry) do not pay fEC for most of their schemes. However, qualifying peer-reviewed charity funding does attract a hidden overhead of around 19% through QR funding (the same source as REF funding). But it’s so well hidden that a lot of people don’t know about it. And that’s not important right now.

How does fEC work?

In effect, this methodology produces a flat daily overhead rate to be charged relative to academic time on your project. This rate is the same for the time of the most senior professor and the earliest of early career researchers.

One effect of this is to make postdoc researchers seem proportionally more expensive. Senior academics are more expensive because of higher employment costs (salary etc), but the overheads generated by both will be the same. Don’t be surprised if the overheads generated by a full time researcher are greater than her employment costs.

All fEC costs are calculated at today’s rates. Inflation and increments will be added later to the final award value.

Do we have to charge fEC overheads?

Yes. This is a methodology that all universities use to make sure that research is funded properly, and there are good arguments for not undercutting each other. Rest assured that everyone – including your competitors– are playing by the same rules and end up with broadly comparable rates. Reviewers are not going to be shocked by your overhead costs compared to rival bids. Your university is not shooting itself (or you) in the foot.

There are fairness reasons not to waive overheads. The point of Research Councils is to fund the best individual research proposals regardless of the university they come from, while the REF (through QR) funds for broad, sustained research excellence based on historical performance. If we start waiving overheads, wealthier universities will have an unfair advantage as they can waive while others drown.

Further, the budget allocations set by funders are decided with fEC overheads in mind. They’re expecting overhead costs. If your project is too expensive for the call, the problem is with your proposal, not with overheads. Either it contains activities that shouldn’t be there, or there’s a problem with the scope and scale of what you propose.

However, there are (major) funding calls where “evidence of institutional commitment” is expected. This could include a waiver of some overheads, but more likely it will be contributions in kind – some free academic staff time, a PhD studentship, new facilities, a separate funding stream for related work. Different universities have different policies on co-funding and it probably won’t hurt to ask. But ask early (because approval is likely to be complex) and have an idea of what you want.

What’s this 80% business?

This is where things get unnecessarily complicated. Costs are calculated at 100% fEC but paid by the research councils at 80%. This leaves the remaining 20% of costs to be covered by the university. Fortunately, there’s enough money from overheads to cover the missing 20% of direct costs. However, if you have a lot of non-pay costs and relatively little academic staff time, check with your costings team that the project is still affordable.

Why 80%? In around 2005 it was deemed ‘affordable’ – a compromise figure intended to make a significant contribution to university costs but without breaking the bank. Again, you don’t need to worry about any of this.

Can I game the fEC system, and if so, how?

Academic time is what drives overheads, so reducing academic time reduces overheads. One way to do this is to think about whether you really need as much researcher time on the project. If you really need to save money, could contracts finish earlier or start later in the project?

Note that non-academic time (project administrators, managers, technicians) does not attract overheads, and so are good value for money under this system. If some of the tasks you’d like your research associate to do are project management/administration tasks, your budget will go further if you cost in administrative time instead.

However, if your final application has unrealistically low amounts of academic time and/or costs in administrators to do researcher roles, the panel will conclude that either (a) you don’t understand the resource implications of your own proposal; or (b) a lack of resources means the project risks being unable to achieve its stated aims. Either way, it won’t be funded. Funding panels are especially alert for ‘salami projects’ which include lots of individual co-investigators for thin slivers of time in which the programme of research cannot possibly be completed. Or for undercooked projects which put too much of a burden on not enough postdoc researcher time. As mentioned earlier, if the project is too big for the call budget, the problem is with your project.

The best way to game fEC it is not to worry about it. If you have support with your research costings, you’ll be working with someone who can cost your application and advise you on where and how it can be tweaked and what costs are eligible. That’s their job – leave it to them, trust what they tell you, and use the time saved to write the rest of the application.

Thanks to Nathaniel Golden (Nottingham Trent) and Jonathan Hollands (University of Nottingham) for invaluable comments on earlier versions of this article. Any errors that remain are my own.

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BHF Grant Applications Moving to Flexi-Grant

From January 2020 British Heart Foundation will be moving it’s application system for all their grants to a Flexi-Grant® management system. Current applications are still being processed via the exisiting GMS.

All applicants are required to complete and submit any applications currently in preparation on the existing GMS by the deadline specified on the grant they are applying for:

  • Project Grant deadline: 27th November 2019
  • Fellowship Grants (except for Nurses & Allied Health) deadline: 31st October 2019
  • Fellowships for Nurses & Allied Health deadline: 25th October 2019
  • Programme Grants, Special Project Grants & New Horizon Grans deadline: 4th December 2019
  • Infrastructure Grants and Personal Chairs deadline: 4th December 2019
  • Clinical Study Grants deadline: 5th February 2020
  • Translational Awards are not currently being accepted.

Please ensure that all outstanding grants are submitted and approved before the appropriate deadline. Any applications which have not been submitted by the Administrative Authority by the relevant deadline will be deleted and not migrated to the new Flexi-Grant® system.

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Dunhill Medical Trust Research Grants


The Dunhill Medical Trust have announced that they are now accepting outline research project grant applications.

The trust will consider applications in the following areas:

  • Bioscience underpinning the mechanisms of ageing, providing there is a clear statement of how the research will be used for the benefit of older people within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Research relating to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of health services and social care delivery for older people.
  • Research relating to improving technology and the built environment, to meet the needs of an ageing population.
  • Behavioural research.
  • Clinical and applied research.
  • Health services research.
  • Public health research.
  • Research carried out on a multidisciplinary basis.
  • Pilot and proof-of-concept studies that can provide sufficient evidence for larger studies which can attract support from major funding bodies.
  • Activities that will expand the research capacity in the above areas.
  • Research related to modifiable risk factors for well-being and health: for example, environmental factors, diet, stress, exercise, social participation, recreation etc.

The application is a two-stage process with the first stage deadline on 11th January 2019, giving you plenty of time to get started on your outline application. Successful ideas will be invited to submit a full application by 1st February 2019.

Deadline: 11th January 2019

Award Amount: £25k – £300k

Duration: up to 3 years

If you’re unsure on your eligibility to apply then you can take Dunhill’s eligibility quiz! For more information on the scheme please visit The Dunhill Medical Trust website.

If you would like to apply then please get in touch with your Research Development Team.


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Royal Society Drop-in Session Reminder

royal society

Our second (and final!) drop-in session for the Royal Society Research Grants will be taking place next week:

Thursday 1st November
Time: 12 – 1pm
Location: JD E246

This session is a chance for you to come and ask any questions you may have about the scheme – we will not be presenting any information.

Please feel free to drop by at any point within the hour to discuss your proposal or ask any questions that you have about the scheme.

If you can’t make it the session but are thinking of applying please contact your Research Development Officer to discuss your proposal.

For more information on the scheme please read our previous post – here.


Royal Society Research Grant

royal society

The Royal Society have announced the next round of Research grants which are now open for applications.

The scheme is for scientists at an early career stage (or returning from a career break) wanting to purchase specialised equipment and essential consumables. The scheme provides “seed corn” funding for new projects.

Award Amount: £20,000

Duration: 12 months

Closing Date: 14th November

For more information please visit the Royal Society Website or contact the Research Development Team.

**We will be holding a drop in session if you have any questions about this call – Please keep an eye on the blog for an update on the date/time/location of this session!**

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Grants Academy 2016

THE Research and Knowledge Exchange (RKE) Office is opening up recruitment to the New Year cohorts of the Grants Academy 2016, an intensive training programme that gives attendees an understanding of ‘grant craft’ and how this can help to  maximise their chances of funding success from Research Councils and other prestigious funders.

The cohort is scheduled to take place on:


Tuesday 29 March  and Wednesday 30 March.

Peer review session on 04 May.

What is the Grants Academy? The Grants Academy teaches applicants how to craft applications to UK Research Councils and other prestigious research funding agencies. As well as increasing the likelihood of success, the Academy offers continued support throughout the bid writing process.  

Participants must have an idea at the appropriate stage of development and must commit to writing and submitting a proposal and attending the mandatory sessions.

Benefits of the Grants Academy Participants will benefit from dedicated support from an external grant craft expert in parallel with the knowledge and experience of our in-house Research Development team.  

How to apply? Applications to join the New Year cohort are now open. If you are interested in making an application, then the following process applies: 

Step 1: Contact your relevant RDM (see below) for an informal conversation about your eligibility, the maturity of your idea and the suitability of your proposal to your chosen funder.  We want you to get the most out of Grants Academy by focusing on a proposal that works for you and your funder, so this pre-work is very important.

Step 2: Once you have found the right funding scheme and your RDM is satisfied that you will benefit from the course, you will be asked to complete a short application form. The form needs to be signed by your departmental head to ensure: a) you are given the time to attend; and b) that we have something in writing demonstrating a commitment to the programme.

Completed and signed applications must be sent to no later than 2 weeks before the scheduled cohort. Please specify in the email which cohort you would like to be considered for.

Deadline for March cohort applications:       4pm 15 March 2016

Step 3: You will attend an initial two-day session with trainer Dr Martin Pickard (Grantcraft), who will provide an intensive (and challenging!) workshop focusing on grant craft. The first day of the session will be held in a venue around the city centre. After the session, you will work closely with your RDM to continue preparing your proposal.

Step 4: Four to six weeks after the two day workshop you will attend a mandatory peer review session to receive feedback on your proposal and find out more about how peer review works in practice.

Step 5: You will continue working with your RDM until your application is submitted.

Research Development Managers:

Manchester School of Art – Germaine Loader

Faculty of Business and Law – Gareth Cantello

Cheshire campus – Germaine Loader and Kelly Lavender-Smith

Faculty of Education – Kelly Lavender-Smith and Germaine Loader

HLSS – Germaine Loader

Hollings – Justin Smith and Germaine Loader

HPSC – Kelly Lavender-Smith

Science and Engineering – Justin Smith, Gareth Cantello and Kelly Lavender-Smith

For European proposals in any Faculty please contact Margaret Eastcott