Costing and pricing

Full Economic Cost (fEC)

A key part of a research proposal is developing a budget for the work. This is not always a straightforward process. Not only do eligible costs vary greatly between sponsors and schemes but the UK Government also requires all universities to estimate the Full Economic Cost (fEC) (using the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) methodology) irrespective of whether the funder will pay the fEC. fEC was introduced in 2005 to ensure that universities were monitoring the true cost of their research and where possible, recover that cost. For further information please refer to the College guidelines for applying the principals of fEC costing and the internal authorisation process. When you have a clear idea of your proposal please contact your Research Services Officer. They will be able to provide advice on developing a budget and calculate the fEC for you.

A brief introduction to the main elements of fEC

fEC has 3 main cost categories: Directly Incurred Costs, Directly Allocated Costs and Indirect Costs. In the table below you will find a brief outline of the types of costs that fall within each of these categories. Please contact your Research Services Officer for further information.

Directly Incurred costs are those items that are specifically purchased for the project. Examples include

  • Research Assistants
  • Administrative/Technical staff recruited specifically for the project
  • Contractors
  • Travel
  • Purchased materials and services
  • Meetings and publication
  • New equipment purchases & maintenance
  • Studentships

Directly Allocated Costs are estimated costs of shared services or facilities used by the project.  Examples include

  • Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators allocated time
  • Estates charges including (but not exhaustive) facilities management, utilities, rates, rents, insurance, cleaning, porters, security, existing equipment and research facilities (with the exception of a limited number of charged out directly allocated research facilities)
  • Large free standing facilities, MRI & EMU
  • Pool technicians, administrative staff, and other staff allocated to the project
  • Infrastructure Technician

Please note that estate rates vary depending on whether your department is laboratory based or not. Laboratory based and also whether Infrastructure technician rate is applicable will depend on what department you are in. The table below shows what category your department is under:


Lab based with Infrastructure rate 
Lab based with no Infrastructure rate 
Non Lab based with no Infrastructure rate 
Drama and Theatre Computer Science Classics
Earth Sciences Media Arts Economics
Geography  Music English
Physics   Health and Social Care 
Psychology    History
School of Biological Sciences    Politics and International Relations 
    School of Management
    School of Modern Languages


Indirect costs covers those central administrative and services costs such as

  • Administration including Research & Enterprise  
  • Central IT Support
  • Legal
  • Registry
  • Finance
  • Personnel
  • Library Facilities


The fEC calculates the true cost of a proposal to the university regardless of the funder type but the price is dictated by a number of factors, including sponsors existing terms and conditions, funder type, the nature of the work etc. At Royal Holloway all proposals are costed using fEC and it is important that you contact your Research Services Officer for advice on costing and pricing your proposal using fEC.

Further information on fEC and Costing and Pricing can be found in our Resources area.

Correctly resourcing your research project

It is important to ensure that you have considered all the resources you will need in order to deliver the work of your research project. Bear in mind that the costs of these resources will have to be justified in your application. A detailed check list of the resources you may need to consider for your proposal can be found in the Resources area. A brief outline to key resources is provided below. When developing your research budget always refer to the funder's guidelines as these will give specific advice on eligible resources. Your Research Services Officer will support you during this process. 

Costs linked to PI

  • PI Time
    Please refer to the guidance on estimating PI time document for further information.
  • Student supervision
    If you have students on a project you must consider the additonal time you will spend when supervising.
  • Teaching buyout
    Some funders allow you to seek the resources to buy your teaching time out, if the time you are committing is going to be significant, or if the research requires you to make considerable commitment at specific points of the project. In such cases  teaching replacement costs can be requested either on the basis of an academic lecture post at the minimum grade (full-time post) or as a Non Established Teaching staff (part-time post). Your Research Services Officer will be able to advise you on how to cost this. Please note that under fEC if the funder pays for the time you commit to the project this is not available to buy your time out on the project. If buy out time is required you will need to get agreement that any funds returned to the department can be used for the buyout and that the HoD approves it.  For an example of how this can work please refer to the distribution of returned funds document.

What about staff?

  • Administrative staff
    Will you require casual assistance for duties such as transcription and organising events?
  • Pool technicians or technician recruited for the project
  • Research Assistants
  • PhD Student fees and stipends (note that projects with studentships should be a minimum of a 36 month duration)
  • Mentor costs
  • Casual support e.g. PhD students

Will your project require...?

  • Access to specialist resource
  • Laptops and software 
  • Software licences
  • Travel – local, international and internal and transfers
  • Travel for collaborative meetings
  • Outside services/consultancy
  • Recruitment costs
  • Storage media
  • Telephone and Internet Usage while abroad
  • Visa and vaccinations for overseas travel
  • Office consumables
  • General consumables
  • Catering/room hire

What equipment might you need?

  • Specialist equipment, relevant to department and project
  • Large free standing facilities, MRI & EMU (charged at an hourly rate)
  • Other facilities such as, autoclave, washing up services, waste disposal etc
  • For large pieces of equipment some funders will only pay a certain proportion related to the duration of the project this will depend on the depreciation applied

Will you need to consider additional charges such as?

  • Conference fees
  • Interlibrary loans
  • Image reproduction


Publication Costs?

Open Access Publishing Costs

As part of their grant award conditions, many funders now require grant holders to deposit publication(s) in either Open Access journals or HEI Open Access Repositories.

There are three main models for Open Access publishing, Self Archiving, Open Access Journals and Open Access Option. The former two have no cost implications on the author or the HEI but the latter, where journals have adopted author-pays model, has cost implications, and these could pose barriers to getting research outputs published if the author or the institution has not identified resources to pay for the cost of the publication. 

As an approximation, the cost for publicising work in Open Access journals can vary between £500 - £3000. In light of the possibility that in an author-pays model there might be barriers to articles being freely published because of the cost implications on the author or HEI, most of the funders eg Research Councils, some medical charities and EU funders have agreed a policy for authors to recover the cost. It is important that you check your terms and conditions.

The Research Information Network (RIN) has also put out a useful guidance document on paying for open access publication charges.


What costs will always apply?

  • Estates costs
  • Indirect costs
  • Infrastructure technician for relevant departments


The University uses pFACT, an online costing and project authorisation system, for developing and costing the budgets of most research proposals. A small number of proposals are however still costed using the Excel RAF system. At the moment pFACT is used only by R&E and Finance. Further information can be found on the pFACT page.

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