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eRA pre-awards approval

The pre-awards section of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) electronic Research Administration (eRA) system was created to streamline and standardise UCT’s current grant application and submission processes. This process helps to manage risk (in terms of resource use, research ethics, health and safety, and finances) to both the PI and the university and serves to support internal application review to ensure all information required by the funder is complete upon submission.

All new protocols applying for external funding must follow the proposal approval process via the eRA pre-awards module. If there was no specific funding call and the award process was initiated by contract negotiation with the funder/sponsor or if a proposal approval form was submitted at the time of application, but the funder requests changes to the project or budget at award/contract stage then PIs must follow the contract approval process.

Applications for NRF, URC, and SAMRC self-initiated research grants are currently not required to follow the eRA pre-awards approval process but still require liaising with the Central Finance and Research offices directly to finalise submission.

If in doubt as to when or if a pre-awards approval form should be submitted, ask yourself: will what I am submitting pose any potential risk to UCT, whether in terms of resource use, research ethics, health & safety, and finances? If the answer is yes, then complete a pre-awards approval form. For further information visit the pre-awards FAQ page.

Pre-awards internal approval process

  • Visit UCT’s Research Portal and log in to the eRA system using the Login option at the top right-hand corner of the screen.
  • Under the “Add New Content” button in the top right corner of your Dashboard select “Project Application/Approval Request”.
  • Under the “Other Funding Schemes” menu, choose “Application stage approvals” or “Contract stage approvals” and select relevant form type (Preliminary Proposal Approval / Proposal Approval / Contract Approval).
  • The PI uploads the requested project documents and captures key project information and details relating to resourcing, ethics, and biosafety.
  • After selecting “Preliminary declaration”, the form is sent online to Departmental Research Finance Staff (Budget Reviewer) to complete project-related finance information that was separately discussed prior to submission of the form.
  • When the Budget Reviewer has completed the Financial Information, the form will be returned to the PI for review of the financial details.
  • The PI confirms their agreement with this financial information (by selecting “Final declaration”) and sends the form to the Finance Approver step.
  • Internal Faculty review and approvals are then completed by relevant Faculty Finance and Deanery (Final Faculty Approver) staff.
  • Completion of internal approval through the eRA system will deem your application ready for submission by the institution (or PI) to the funder or for signature of the research contract. Importantly for proposals, please note, the eRA system is completely independent of the funder’s online portal and your application is not submitted to the funder via the eRA system.

If UCT is required to authorise submission of your application to a funder, it is advised that the PI contacts Research Contracts and Innovation (RC&I) once internal Faculty approval is complete to confirm expectations of when RC&I’s review will be complete, and which documents or online portals require a signature to finalise submission to the funder.

Faculty Financial Review

UCT's pre-awards process must be strictly adhered to. The Budget Reviewer (a Research Finance staff member in your Department) will complete the “Financial Information” tab within the eRA approval form for all external grants and drug trial funding following review of the budget. In this regard, it is essential to engage and seek support from Faculty Research Finance staff prior to logging the application on the eRA system. This should be initiated as early as possible in the proposal development process. Advantages of contacting Research Finance staff timeously are:

  • Budgets will be in line with UCT Finance policies and guidelines.
  • Budgets are fully or appropriately costed (if the grant is awarded, no further re-negotiation with funders is required).
  • VAT implications are correctly incorporated, as the VAT apportionment ruling has changed how much Input VAT can be claimed on purchases.
  • IP protocols are followed in terms of financial implications.
  • There is no delay in the final contract processing.
  • UCT will sign a grant contract sooner compared to if finances were still to be reviewed and approved after the grant is awarded.

Current exceptions for eRA pre-awards approval process

National Research Foundation (NRF):
Applicants who submit applications by the internal closing deadline are guaranteed an internal review, which is undertaken by UCT’s Research Office. In rare but necessary cases (i.e. Thuthuka, CPRR, and CSUR) internal scientific reviews are also undertaken by discipline experts. Feedback is then provided to applicants and, if necessary, applications reopened for amendment. Applicants resubmit applications before the NRF final deadline.

Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) & Poliomyelitis Research Foundation (PRF):
For Health Sciences researchers: To apply, researchers email their completed application form to the funder and copy an administrator in the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Office. The administrator will obtain institutional approval from the Deputy Dean for Research and forward this to the funder.

South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC):
For the SAMRC Self-Initiated Research (SIR) grant scheme only, researchers complete an online application form and press submit. The application then gets sent to an internal administrator in the Faculty of Health Sciences who takes the application to the Deputy Dean for Research for institutional approval. Once the signed application is received, the administrator uploads this and completes the online submission to the funder.