Proposal Development

All new proposals for externally funded research, regardless of value or funder, must be fully approved internally through the ACP costing system prior to submission to the funder. This includes outline proposals and proposals submitted by another institution or organisation.

PIs should engage with RSO as early as possible in the application process so that a timetable can be agreed to support the application up to the funder deadline. Application and costing requests are triaged by RSO to ensure project information is captured on systems for reporting and to ensure deadlines are met.

Once costings have been created in ACP by RSO, Principal Investigators (PI) should automatically have access to view them. When the project is fully costed the PI will review the project, upload the case for support/proposal document and complete the governance checklist. ACP then automatically sends the proposal for the required authorisations which can include the HoD, Institute Director and Faculty Dean. The approval process ensures that research proposals are checked and reviewed so that only high-quality applications, which stand the best chance of success, are submitted by the university.

In parallel with departmental and faculty approvals, the PI should liaise with RSO to ensure that the funder’s forms are completed correctly and in accordance with the funder’s call specification. This may be in paper or electronic format. Once the proposal has been approved by the Dean and checked and validated by RSO, final institutional approval may be sought from either the Director of Finance or the Vice-Chancellor.

A costing cannot be approved without reference to the actual proposal. ACP must be completed and is then reviewed alongside the funder’s proposal form which includes the budget being requested for the project as well any other accompanying documents e.g. letters of support, justification of resources, impact statement, data management plan, case for support. These documents can be uploaded to the ACP record by the PI.

To allow time for proper consideration, the full proposal should be available to the RSO no later than one week before the deadline for submission.

For further details please see our pre-award development webpages and Guidance for research grant application; process and route map which outlines all the stages.


  • Responsibilities of the Principal Investigator

    It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to ensure that their application is fully approved before it is submitted to the funder. This includes all necessary documents uploaded to ACP and available to the relevant approvers in a timely manner to allow them to be reviewed alongside the costing. It is important that RSO has the full application, including justification of resources, case for support, letters of support, impact statements etc. to allow the application to be checked for errors and for ACP to be verified against the application to the funder.

    It is especially important that there is time to allow for any amendments that may be required during the approval/review process. This may include referring the funder’s forms back to the PI for amendment so it is essential that sufficient time is allowed for this to happen.

    It is the responsibility of the PI to ensure that the research will be conducted in line with the university ethics code of practice and that the ACP governance checklist is completed so that it can be reviewed by their HoD.

  • Responsibilities of Approvers

    Within the hierarchy of approvals, different authorisers will be looking at proposals from different perspectives. What follows are some broad guidelines (not exhaustive) that are intended to help focus the issues around authorisation for submission to the funder.

    The university needs to be aware of the full economic cost (fEC) and recovery rate to ensure that there is a balanced portfolio of projects undertaken in a sustainable manner. However, the fEC and the recovery rate of any research project is only one element of the project that is considered at the approval stage. Any one project will have a number of non-financial benefits to the university, for example, the project is important to the department’s research strategy, the funder or scheme may be particularly prestigious, there may be an advantageous collaboration or the project may lead to further research.

    An Approvers Report is available in ACP which summarises the project costs and provides information to Approvers on the overall recovery rate, the proportion of directly incurred costs to income received and the estates and indirect costs due to the department.

    Head of Department approves the proposal to confirm:

    • They are satisfied with the quality of the proposal
    • The proposal is consistent with the departmental research strategy
    • The project can be delivered within available departmental resources or that the need for additional resources has been raised and agreed by the Dean
    • Any institutional commitment within departmental control is fully agreed
    • The ethical risk has been assessed by the PI (on the governance tab of ACP) and is appropriate to the project

    The Dean approves the proposal to confirm:

    • That the proposal is consistent with the faculty research strategy
    • That the project can be delivered within available faculty resources or that the need for additional resources has been discussed and agreed by UPRG or other appropriate group
    • That any institutional commitment within faculty control is fully agreed

    RSO approves the proposal to confirm:

    • The proposal is in line with the funder’s terms and conditions and that the proposal forms are completed correctly
    • Agreement of institutional match funding is recorded and evidenced (in emails etc.) for future reference and institutional information given in the proposal is correct
    • All resources identified in the case for support/proposal are included in the costs on ACP
    • Costs deemed ineligible by the funder are not included in the proposal price (even though they may be a part of the project costs on ACP)
    • The costs included in the actual proposal form are consistent with those on ACP which have been approved by the HoD and the Dean where applicable
    • VAT has be accounted for correctly both within the proposal and ACP e.g. VAT on sub-contracts or on proposals to commercial funders
    • On collaborative projects the costs of collaborators are incorporated into the proposal and their approval has been given to Lancaster to submit the proposal on their behalf
    • The proposal forms are signed by the relevant approver if a signature is required
    • If necessary any non-standard terms and conditions have been reviewed by the contracts team
    • Any ethical or other issues raised through the approval process are passed on as appropriate e.g. to the relevant research ethics committee

    The RSO pre-award team can only carry out these checks effectively providing that sufficient time is allowed between receiving the completed proposal from the PI and the deadline for submission. PIs should take into account that there will be other proposals already in the RSO workflow and there may be a number for the same deadline. Once all checks have been completed the application may need to go to the Director of Finance and in some cases the Vice-Chancellor for final approval. If Dean level approval is the final level required proposals must still be confirmed for submission by the RSO to ensure these last checks are completed.

    The Director of Finance/Vice-Chancellor approves and signs the proposal to confirm:

    • That the proposal is consistent with the university strategy
    • That any resource issues raised by the Dean have been resolved or that a clear process exists to resolve them
    • That any institutional commitment is fully agreed

    To allow time for proper consideration, the full proposal should be available to the RSO no later than one week before the deadline for submission.

Funding Opportunities

Staff at Lancaster University have access to thousands of funding opportunities via the university's subscription to RESEARCHconnect. This is a dedicated research funding facility, offering the latest calls from the UK, EU and international research funding landscapes.


Training for researchers on bid development is provided by Research Services in collaboration with colleagues across the university. Please contact your departmental Research Development Officer for more information.

Clinical Research

Specialist advice, guidance and an approvals committee is in place for clinical research.

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