Key questions answered

August 27, 2004

Calculating your research costs is only the first step: but how do you work out what percentage of costs you can recover?

Simon Kerridge , deputy director of the graduate research school, Sunderland University: "Do we charge research sponsors full costs straight away? If a neighbouring university is phasing it in gradually over three years, we can't afford to do that. If you have a sponsor who gives you a lot of cash, you can't just double that for no extra value."

Can universities expect industry to pay full economic costs?

Malcolm Skingle , director, academic liaison, GlaxoSmith-Kline: "An increase in overhead payments for collaborative research would mean we would have to examine the benefits of supporting such research in the UK. We can choose to work with any academic group in the world. Industry does not have an unlimited fund for research."

Eric Thomas , vice-chancellor, Bristol University: "Many universities haven't worked out that there is a difference between cost and price.

Industry research is a market and that market is driven by quality. If you do a quality job you should charge quality prices. It is not economically sustainable for universities to subsidise industry research in the UK."

If Europe typically pays only 50 per cent of full economic costs, can universities afford to bid for European research funding?

The Office of Science and Technology is negotiating on this with the European Commission. The budget for the next round of European research funding, the Framework 7 Programme, has doubled - to E40 billion (£ billion).

Universities UK spokesperson: "A crucial issue for universities is the financial sustainability of EU-funded research activities. The level of research funding provided by the EC is unsustainable in the medium term."

What is the situation with charities?

The Treasury's ten-year review of science allocated an extra £90 million to the Higher Education Funding Council for England to support the costs of charitable research.

Association of Medical Research Charities : "Because of the differences in their culture and purpose, charities will not fund research in the same way as research councils, which pay an agreed percentage of costs. However, universities should not see charity funding as an obstacle or a problem."

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