Research Funding

Document Currently Under Review

Current Status: Under Review - With Editor 23 September 2021

Research Funding Policy

Policy Code: RS1924


  • To advise of University policy pertaining to applying for, acceptance of and management of funds for research activity from external sources.
  • To outline the requirement for research activity funded from external sources to include a contribution towards the Indirect Costs (infrastructure) of the University. 


The Policy covers all categories of external funding for research activity, including funding awarded by national and international bodies, such as the ARC and NHMRC and all levels of government, as well as private industry, philanthropic and the community sector. This Policy applies to:

  • All staff, including sessional staff, employed by the University or any controlled entity;
  • All persons, including Honorary and Adjunct appointees of the University or any controlled entity;
  • Higher Degree by Research candidates who apply for or have been awarded external research funding or an external scholarship stipend as part of their candidature.


Term Definition
Administering Organisation An Organisation (usually a University) which submits a proposal for funding and which will be responsible for the administration of the funding if the proposal is approved.
ARC Australian Research Council
Bona Fide Donation A gift made to the University to fund research within a specific discipline or broad target for which there is no restriction placed by the donor
Budget Costing Pro Forma Finance excel spreadsheet used to develop research and consultancy budgets.

A request to the Finance Office to retain project funds beyond the original end date of an agreement. Carry-over requests must be supported with variation documentation. 

This term may also be used to describe the retaining of project funds beyond the current fiscal year (i.e. multi-year funding).

Category 1 Income: Australian Competitive Grant R&D income Consists only of net-receipted income for research activity as defined by Department of Education and Training (DET) in the “HERDC Specifications for Category 1 Australian Competitive R&D Income”.
Category 2 Income: Other Public Sector R&D Income

Consists of R&D income received from the Australian public sector that is not eligible for inclusion as Category 1 income. Public sector agencies and authorities may include:

  • Businesses that are wholly or partly owned or funded by Commonwealth, state or territory, or local governments; have a board; and operate on a profit or cost-recovery basis.
  • Research and Development Corporations where they are statutory corporations or authorities.
  • CRCs, where the reporting HEP has not been defined within the Commonwealth Agreement as “The Researcher” or a “Participant” (i.e. was not a signatory to the Commonwealth Agreement, a CRC Participants Agreement, or a Company Constitution during the reporting period).
Category 3 Income: Industry and Other R&D Income Consists of R&D income received from the private sector, philanthropic and international sources that are not eligible as Category 1 or Category 2 R&D income.
Category 4 Income: CRC R&D Income

A Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is created through a Commonwealth Agreement with a Higher Education Provider (HEP).

Under Category 4, HEPs must report the R&D income from a CRC in which they were defined within the Commonwealth Agreement as a “Participant”, and are a signatory to the CRC‘s Commonwealth Agreement or Participant‘s Agreement. Category 4 CRC R&D income includes HEP income received from CRC Projects (CRC-P).

Charitable Trust/Foundation An organisation established for charitable purposes and recognised as such by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
Chief Investigator (CI) For the purpose of the Research Funding Policy and Procedures the Chief Investigator is the first named Federation University researcher on the project    
Contract/Funding Agreement

This is an agreement for the provision of R&D activities under specified negotiated terms and conditions in exchange for specified deliverables, signed by all parties. For University purposes research agreements must include one or more of the following:

  • formal contractual agreements, including those requiring execution under seal
  • letters of agreement
  • variations
Contract Research

Research and experimental development activities carried out under an agreement to provide research services within specified negotiated conditions in exchange for specified deliverables.

This may occur as a result of direct negotiations rather than a nationally competitive application process.

Controlled Entity A company over which the University has control within the meaning of section 3 of the Audit Act 1994 (Vic) and which has adopted this Policy.
Direct Costs Costs directly attributable to undertaking the project including salaries and salary on-costs of staff employed on the project, consumables, travel, equipment purchases and other maintenance costs etc.
DVC (R&I) Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
Funding Body An Organisation or Agency that provides funds for the purpose of conducting or supporting research activities.
Funding Establishment Form (FEF) Internal post-award form used to facilitate the establishment of a contract/funding agreement and to request a Finance Project Code.
Funding Expression of Interest (FEOI) form

Internal pre-award form used to obtain Dean or equivalent and DVC (R&I) approval to develop an externally funded research proposal.

Provides Research Funding Team with preliminary notification of intention to apply.

Funding Submission Coversheet (FSC) Internal pre-award form used to obtain Dean or equivalent and DVC (R&I) approval to submit a School or equivalent reviewed external research funding proposal.Provides Research Funding Team with application details for university compliance and reporting purposes.
Indirect Costs Infrastructure and overhead costs incurred by the University in support of research, including but not limited to existing facilities and equipment (e.g. laboratory and office space), technical and administrative support, libraries, computer services, telecommunications, power and lighting, and building maintenance and cleaning.
NHMRC National Health and Medical Research Council
Partner/Collaborating Organisation

Partner or collaborating organisation generally refers to organisations who are listed on the proposal and will contribute to the development, delivery and outcomes of the research.

Partnership, roles, activities and contributions, including cash and/or in-kind, are agreed to via a contract/agreement signed by all parties

Proposal or Research Proposal (application) Pre-award documentation for a research project submitted to an external funding body for consideration of award. This may be in the form of a prescribed competitive funding application, university-initiated proposal or draft contract.
Research and experimental development (R&D)

The HERDC definition of research and experimental development, abbreviated as R&D, is consistent with the OECD definition of research and experimental development set out in the 2015 Frascati Manual. R&D is defined as:

‘creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.’

For an activity to be an R&D activity it must satisfy all five core criteria:

  1. to be aimed at new findings (novel),
  2. to be based on original, not obvious, concepts and hypotheses (creative),
  3. to be uncertain about the final outcomes (uncertain),
  4. to be planned and budgeted (systematic), and
  5. to lead to results that could be possibly reproduced (transferable and/or reproducible). 

 (2020 HERDC Specifications, Pg 5, Section 3)

Research Funding Funding from an external source awarded to the University for a staff member,HDR candidate or research team to carry out research activities under a contract/funding agreement.
Variation Any formal change to a project that is agreed upon by all parties via an approved, signed agreement or formal correspondence. This may include changes to project budget, timeframe or milestones.

Policy Statement

Federation University Australia aims to actively support researchers who seek external funding to support their research endeavours. Further to this, the University will be fiscally accountable and transparent in the way in which it allocates, manages, monitors and reports its activities and outcomes.

Funding categories

All externally sourced research funding sits under one of four categories as per the Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) specifications:

Category 1 Income: Australian Competitive Grants R&D Income

Category 2 Income: Other Public Sector Research Income

Category 3 Income: Industry and Other R&D Income

Category 4: CRC R&D Income

Proposals for funding (pre-award)

All proposals, and related documents for HERDC reportable externally funded research activity must be lodged through the Research Funding Team for DVC (R&I) or delegate approval.

All proposals for external funding must comply with University Policies and Procedures and follow the relevant guidelines and funding rules of the funding body. Proposals for research funding must be approved by the relevant Dean or equivalent prior to lodgement with the Research Funding Team for DVC (R&I) approval. 

Where the proposal is from the Dean or equivalent, approval must be sought from a senior signatory e.g., DVC (Academic).

The Dean or equivalent is responsible for ensuring the project is academically and financially acceptable to the budget unit. All proposals are required to undergo a full compliance and budget check, coordinated by the Research Funding Team, prior to DVC (R&I) or delegate approval and submission to the Funding body.

The DVC (R&I) retains the right to defer or reject submission of any proposal if it is deemed not of a competitive standard or may cause harm or risk to the University in any way, including potential damage to the integrity or reputation of Federation University Australia, within the bounds of academic freedom and freedom of enquiry.

Acceptance of research funding (post-award)

Contracts, agreements and variations

The CI will work with the Research Funding Team to formally accept an offer for research funding. The Research Funding Team will coordinate the establishment of a research contract/funding agreement. For compliance, audit and legal reasons, all research related contract/funding agreement and variation negotiations must be documented in writing, via a fully executed contract/funding agreement or formal correspondence signed by authorised personnel for all parties.  

All contracts, agreements and variations must be reviewed and approved by the Legal Office. Where appropriate the Legal Office will draft, negotiate and modify these documents. The Research Funding Team will arrange sign off by the relevant university delegate i.e. DVC (R&I), Vice Chancellor or the University Council, as dictated by the contract/funding agreement. The establishment and execution of a research contract/funding agreement or variation will be guided by University policy, specifically the Delegations – Contract, Financial, Staffing and Tender Policy.

Management of research funds

The CI must ensure that their research activities fit within the parameters of the contract/funding agreement. Contracts/agreements specify how research funds are to be spent, including distribution of funds amongst collaborators, and expenditure against approved budget headings.

Any changes to the research project must be documented in a revised contract/funding agreement or variation following a formal request either from the CI, Funding Body or Partner Organisation. CI’s are responsible for implementing and delivering funded projects according to the terms and conditions of the funding agreement, contract or variation, including meeting project milestones, outputs and conforming to project budgets.

The Research Funding Team will coordinate compliance monitoring of each research project to ensure that it meets contractual requirements. It is the responsibility of the CI to inform the Research Funding Team of any changes to the project that deviate from those previously agreed to by all parties via the agreement, contract or variation

Project Completion, Reports and Acquittals

CIs are responsible for meeting all milestones including submitting progress and final project reports.  These reports and evidence of funding body acceptance must be provided to the Research Funding Team for record keeping and contractual compliance evidence.

All research funds must be expended in accordance with the contract/funding agreement/variation, and adhering to the Fraud & Corrupt Conduct Control Policy.

Where specified within the contract/funding agreement, completed projects will go through a financial acquittal process, and any unspent funds must be distributed as per the contractual specifications.

The Finance Office is responsible for invoicing funding bodies, and where applicable project partners/collaborators, for awarded funds and ensuring project accounts are credited accordingly.

Recovery of Indirect Costs

Publicly owned entities such as Universities will generally have a lower cost base than that of privately-owned entities due to various levels of government funding. As such, Federation University Australia is required to charge recovery of indirect costs on research activity from external sources to ensure that its business activities compete fairly in the market when it is in the public interest for them to do so. Known as competitive neutrality, this requires transparent cost identification and pricing in a way, which removes net cost advantages arising from public ownership.

Research funding exempt from indirect costs may include:

  • Projects funded by Australian Charitable Trusts/Foundations;
  • Bona-fide donations;
  • Funds specifically for a student stipend (funding for an HDR Scholarship as part of a larger funded research project are not exempt from the Indirect cost charge); and
  • Funds where the funding body guidelines prohibit indirect costs.

The University seeks to price research activity to cover all direct and indirect costs, with the indirect cost recovery component calculated at a minimum of 30% of the total project income.

The Budget Costing Proforma automatically calculates the indirect costs of a project and staff must use this tool when creating a budget for their proposal to ensure costs are correctly applied.

Indirect costs are distributed as follows:

Research Services 10%
Central Overheads 10%
School or equivalent 10%*
Minimum Total 30%

* In the case of larger research projects, it may be appropriate for a School / Centre to apply a higher allocation than the minimum 10% of indirect costs to cover items such as teaching release, extra clerical support, tech support, lab use etc. It will be at the discretion of the Dean or equivalent as to what rate should be applied.

Reduction to Indirect Costs

Circumstances that may justify a reduction in indirect cost recovery include projects that benefit the University in a strategic way and help it meet its mission and goals, for example:

  • the project provides for provision of large-scale, specialised equipment that would remain in the possession of the University at the end of the project and would be fully available to support further research by the University; or
  • the work will be undertaken in research facilities not wholly owned or provided by the University or by staff not solely employed by the University.

All such variations will need to be applied for in writing to the DVC (R&I).


  • The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), as the Approval Authority, is responsible for monitoring the implementation, outcomes and scheduled review of this Policy and its accompanying Procedure/s.
  • The Director, Research Innovation and Enterprise, as the Policy Sponsor, is responsible for maintaining the content of this Policy as delegated by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).
  • The Research Funding Team is responsible for the administration support for the maintenance of this Policy as directed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).


The Research Funding Policy will be communicated throughout the University Community in the form of:

  1. an Announcement Notice via FedNews website and on the ‘Recently Approved Documents’ page on the ‘Policies, Procedures and Forms @ the University’ website to alert the University-wide community of the approved Policy;
  2. Distribution of e-mails to Dean of School / Head of Department / University staff; and
  3. Notification to Schools or equivalent.


The Research Funding Policy will be implemented throughout the University via:

  1. an Announcement Notice via FedNews website and on the ‘Recently Approved Documents’ page on the ‘Policies, Procedures and Forms @ the University’ website to alert the University-wide community of the approved Policy;
  2. Staff induction sessions
  3. Training sessions

Records Management

Title Location Responsible Officer Minimum Retention Period
Research Contracts/Funding Agreements and Variations

Legal Office - Central Filing Systems


Legal Office 7 years after contract has expired.