Research Capital Governance

All full-stage research applications that request research capital with a value to purchase and install of £250k (quarter of a million) and over must undergo governance, and obtain approval from both the Capital Research Assets Group (CRAG) and the Estates and Capital Sub-Group (ECSG) prior to submission.

Please note:

  • In addition to ‘capital only’ bids, this governance process is applicable to any application where the research capital threshold is exceeded (examples include fellowships and programme grants).
  • Approval is required from both the department and faculty prior to the submission of early stage applications (where £250k or more of research capital is requested). See below for more details.
  • Although the definition of capital is quite broad, research capital in this context usually refers to the purchase and installation of equipment.

Objectives of the governance process

The Capital Research Assets Group (CRAG) governance process assesses the location, management, utilisation and sustainability of new research capital purchases through the completion of a bid assessment form (BAF).

The process aims to:

  • Speed up the time from notification of award to installation for research capital projects.
  • Connect project teams to professional services support staff at an early stage.
  • Minimise risks associated with research applications requesting equipment, both to the project team and the institution.

In summary, by meeting these aims, the procurement and installation of equipment can run as smoothly and as efficiently as possible post-award.

Overview of the process

In the first instance, ideally at least 6 weeks before the application deadline, the principal investigator (PI) should contact their faculty based research hubs for support with the research capital governance process. Further advice may be sought from the research capital governance team in Research Services (capitalresearch@sheffield.ac.uk). In summary, approvals are required at different stages of the application process as outlined in Table 1 below.

Stage of application Approvals required prior to submission to funder Bid assessment form (BAF)
Department Faculty CRAG ECSG
‘Intent to submit’ email n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Early stage applications e.g. outline or ‘expression of interest’ Required Required *May be required if a project is deemed particularly high risk, or if the capital request is large (i.e. multimillion). PI to complete part A
Full stage Required Required Required Required PI to complete part A

Stakeholders in professional services to complete part B

Table 1: Approvals required according to stage of application.

The different stages of the governance process (including indicative timescales) are detailed in figure 1 below.

Early-stage applications: PI’s applying for an early-stage application (i.e. not the full-stage, but an earlier stage application that requests financial information, often called an outline or expression of interest (EOI)), should work with their faculty based research hub to complete part A of the bid assessment form. Once part A is completed, approval from the relevant department and faculty needs to be obtained prior to submission to the funder.

Full-stage applications: If invited to full-stage, or for one stage applications, part A and B of the bid assessment form needs to be completed. Part B captures any outstanding risk and is completed by stakeholders in professional services (including estates and facilities management (EFM), capital finance, procurement and IT services). Once part B is completed, it is assessed by CRAG, followed by ECSG. Both CRAG and ECSG approval needs to be obtained (in addition to department and faculty approval) prior to submission to the funder.

flowchart

Figure 1: Summary of the Governance Process for Research Capital. Indicative timescales are noted in turquoise.

FAQs

1. Do I need CRAG/ECSG approval if the total value of the research capital requested in my application is less than £250k?

No. Only research capital requests in excess of £250k require CRAG/ECSG approval. The £250k limit includes VAT and any installation/estates costs. The threshold does not include costs for service contracts.

2. Why do I need CRAG/ECSG approval for research capital applications in excess of £250k?

By seeking approval from a central governance committee, the capital element of the project receives thorough appraisal in terms of its destined location, management, utilisation and sustainability to ensure effective and efficient use. The process allows relevant stakeholders (from estates and facilities management (EFM), capital finance, procurement and IT services) to work together with the PI and faculty representatives to identify and resolve issues early in the process. Ultimately, the process mitigates risk and aims to reduce the time between award and installation of the requested item.

3. Do I need to obtain faculty approval prior to CRAG/ECSG approval?

Yes, it is essential that the project receives faculty approval prior to CRAG/ECSG approval. Faculty approval is sought after completion of part A of the bid assessment form. CRAG approval is sought after completion of part B (for full stage applications only).

4. Is CRAG/ECSG approval required for outline/EOI applications?

No, CRAG/ECSG approval is not required for early stage applications (such as outlines or EOIs). Faculty approval (through submission of part A of the bid assessment form) is required prior to submission of early stage applications.

5. If individual items cost <£250k, but the total is >£250k, do I still need CRAG/ ECSG approval? Yes, the £250k cut off represents the total cost of the research capital requested. Please note that this value includes both VAT and installation/estates costs. To ensure that the application is not under-costed, it is preferable to obtain more than one quote.
6. Who completes the Bid Assessment Form? We ask PIs, together with their faculty based research hubs, to complete Part A of the form. Part B is completed by relevant stakeholders from estates and facilities management (EFM), capital finance, procurement and IT services, after a stakeholder meeting (which is organised by the research capital team in Research Services).
7. Do I need to obtain CRAG/ECSG approval if I’m not requesting the money from an external funder? Yes. An example of this would be a project led by Campaigns and Alumni Relations (CAR) who require CRAG/ECSG approval for research capital (>£250k) that we are seeking funding for from our alumni. Another example would be for research capital purchased through internal funds.
8. Do I need CRAG/ECSG approval if the requested equipment is not destined for TUoS? Although installation/estates considerations will probably be minimal, if the capital funding is coming to Sheffield we still need to go through the research capital governance process to gain CRAG/ESCG approval.
9. Do I need CRAG/ECSG approval if the total equipment requested for a consortium bid is >£250k, but the total coming to Sheffield is less than <£250k? If Sheffield are requesting less than £250k for research capital, CRAG/ECSG approval is not required.
10. Is CRAG/ECSG approval required if an external candidate (e.g. someone currently employed elsewhere) wishes to include >£250k of capital in their fellowship application for the University of Sheffield?

If >£250k of capital is requested from the funder (for the University of Sheffield), CRAG/ECSG approval must be sought prior to submission of the application.

11. What preparation can I do in advance of an external call?

As the timelines for drafting and approving bid assessment forms can be tight, we recommend doing as much preparation in advance of a call as possible. This might include steps such as:

● Initiate discussions with your faculty as to how they might support an application in terms of institutional support, space considerations, staffing etc.
● Obtain quotes from companies including any relevant service contracts.
● Initiate discussions with EFM if the equipment requires substantial installation considerations or laboratory refurbishment.

12. How often do the CRAG committee meet to review and approve applications? CRAG meetings are scheduled monthly. Please ensure that bid assessment forms (for full stage applications) are completed ready for submission five days prior to the meeting. Meeting dates can be found on the CRAG webpage.