Preparing a grant application

To apply for funding, you must fill in an application form and attach certain documentation. The page provides guidance on preparing the key parts of a grant application, and highlights who to contact for support.

How to prepare a proposal

The main steps in preparing a grant application are:

  1. Check funders guidance notes
  2. Develop research plan and establish resources
  3. Cost your project and gain authorisation for the price
  4. Complete the application form
  5. Obtain departmental and University approval to submit the application
  6. Submit application to funder

Writing a grant application is a major undertaking. You are entering a fierce competition for funding, and it’s crucial to submit a strong proposal first time round since many funders do not accept resubmissions. We offer some guidance on things to think about before you start, what should you include, and tips on writing style and presentation.

Best practice in writing a successful grant application


Non-disclosure agreements

We strongly recommend the preparation of a non-disclosure / confidentiality agreement between partners at an early stage of discussions. This protects disclosures of intellectual property and confidential information by all parties. Uncontrolled disclosure of information may lead to another party taking and using your ideas, and will make the ownership of intellectual property difficult to ascertain.

Request an agreement


How to prepare the budget

The budget is a key part of any grant application. There are many factors to consider, including costs for staff, travel, consumables, recruitment, equipment, facilities, biological services, research data management, impact, and open access to name a few. An understanding of the principles of full Economic Costing (fEC) will help you to calculate the true cost of a research project, ensuring that you have the necessary financial resources required. Once you have calculated the fEC using the Costing & Awards Tool, the next step is to determine the price, i.e. the amount eventually paid by the funder, and gain approval for that price.

Information on fEC and costing an application

Procedure for costing and pricing applications


Funder-specific requirements

  • Restricted / quota call: when a funder restricts the number of applications that may be submitted per institution, an internal process is coordinated and put in place by Research Services. View the list of current managed calls.
  • Justification of Resources: the UK Research Councils require all grant applications to explain why the requested resources are needed. Failure to fully justify costs may result in a reduced budget.
  • Statement of National Importance: all EPSRC grant applications must include a Statement of National Importance. This is an opportunity to showcase the significance of your research. Guidance is available on the EPSRC website.

Considering research ethics and integrity issues

Research integrity underpins high quality research, and funders will expect best practice to be followed in the design of a research project, in the writing of a grant application and in the management of key issues such as collaboration with external partners, the involvement of human participants or personal data/tissue, and conflicts of interest. The earlier these kinds of issues can be considered, the better. The Research Ethics and Integrity pages provide details of the University's expectations in these areas, and a range of supporting guidance.

Guidance and resources


Pathways to Impact

Since 2009, summaries of potential impact have been a compulsory part of grant applications for many funders (called Pathways to Impact by Research Councils). They are a response to ever tighter budgets and are intended to ensure that publicly funded research delivers as many benefits as possible.  They are not the primary criterion for awarding funding, which remains the excellence of the research. However, they are used to decide between proposals of equal merit and so are worth doing well.

Guidance and resources


Letters of support

Some funders require a simple letter of support stating that the University is happy for the application to proceed and that it will host the proposed research should the application be successful. Others ask for an Institutional Letter of Commitment, whereby the University expresses its support for the application in much stronger terms, often when the University needs to commit resources should the application be successful.

If you require a letter of support, please contact the Research Growth Officer for your faculty. They will guide you through the process and work with the relevant Head of Faculty, where appropriate, to agree the institutional commitments and arrange an appropriate signatory.


Benchmarking information

We can produce information on how individuals, research groups and the University performs against its peers on a range of topics:

  • We can produce information to support your grant application, to help demonstrate the strength of the proposal and to understand how potential competitors may stack up.
  • We can help with background information about the research strengths of the University to help convince an external partner to work with us.
  • When you're developing a business case for strategic investment in a research area, group or centre, we can help you find the information that supports your case.
  • We can produce data on research awards, centres and networks; publications, bibliometrics and altmetrics; past REF and RAE performance; IP, knowledge exchange and innovation activity; postgraduate research student provision; national and international partnerships; and advisory group and panel membership.

Research information


Regulatory requirements and legal obligations

Export control: Export control legislation seeks to ensure that UK Science & Technology is not exploited by proliferators of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or terrorists. The main areas of concern are material, equipment or know-how that could be used in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or other explosive devices or means of delivery and their physical or electronic export. Failure to comply with this legislation is a criminal offence.

Guidance on export control legislation

International Financial and Trade Sanctions: Financial and trade sanctions are part of a package of measures applied by individual countries, international organisations, or regional bodies to fight aggression, terrorism, criminal behaviour or violations of human rights. The University has a legal obligation to comply with sanctions, and this may restrict or prevent research with organisations or individuals in certain countries.

Guidance on international financial and trade sanctions

Financial Conflict of Interest for US Public Health Service-funded research: When applying to, and receiving funding from, US Public Health Service (PHS) funding bodies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are additional requirements for the investigator and research team to adhere to.

FCOI policy


Due Diligence 

In response to new terms and conditions introduced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and other funders, driven in part by the new Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) schemes, the University has developed a Due Diligence and Risk Management Framework for overseas research. The framework seeks to assess the financial and reputational risk of partnering with overseas institutions, particularly when funding is to be transferred to the partner institution.

Applications: please complete the form below if you are developing an application that will involve collaboration with an overseas organisation. This will allow us to undertake some quick checks on prospective partners on your behalf. We will contact you shortly thereafter if we identify any issues of concern. Otherwise please assume it is OK to proceed with your application.

Due diligence Google form

Awards: Research Services will ordinarily identify awards which involve collaboration with overseas partners as part of the contracting process, and be in touch with PIs as part of a full due diligence assessment. However, please feel free to advise us directly of any such awards at duediligence@sheffield.ac.uk

Full details of the UoS Due Diligence and Risk Management Framework can be found in the document here.


Developing Capital Equipment Proposals

Research Infrastructure planning and the capital equipment pipeline: To manage demand and ensure all large capital development plans are incorporated into faculty and institutional strategic plans, all applications for equipment over the OJEU threshold (£135,668) must be logged on the University capital equipment pipeline. Research Services will support the maintenance and development of the equipment pipeline and ensure that the document complements the faculty's research development plans. If you have plans to prepare a large equipment bid please inform your faculty support team and for any large scale equipment proposals over the OJEU threshold please contact your Faculty Research Growth Officer in Research Services. If you are unsure whether to develop an application for new research equipment please review the following application process flow document.

Reseach Councils equipment funding overview: UK Research Councils funding for equipment is split into three categories:

  1. Equipment below £10,000 including VAT- individual items of equipment below £10,000 should be included in proposals for individual research projects and will be funded at 80% FEC.
  2. Equipment between £10,000 and the current OJEU limit (current OJED limit is £135,668) including VAT- individual items of equipment between £10,000 and the current OJEU limit should be included on proposals for individual research projects and will be funded at 50%.
  3. Strategic equipment over the current OJEU limit (current OJEU limit is £135,668)- requests for capital equipment over the OJEU limited must submit a two page business case to the strategic equipment panel, funding for strategic equipment can be up to 100% however Research Councils strongly encourage institutional contributions.

Research Councils Strategic Framework for Capital Investment: In late 2012 UK Research Ccouncils published Investing for Growth- Capital Infrastructure for the 21st Century, the document provides a strategic framework against which the UK Research Councils plan and allocate capital funding. It is important to review the framework document and identify where your proposal is most compatible with the priorities outlined in the framework. Understanding the framework will allow us to articulate the most compelling business case for new capital assets at Sheffield. If you would like to discuss a proposal please contact Charlotte Lay on C.Lay@sheffield.ac.uk or call 0114 22 21418.