Is this project research or not?

Before starting any project it is necesary to careful assess the full scope of work to be done to achieve your objectives.

You should assess the precise nature of the work you are to carry out and identifies the important differences between projects which fall under the definition of research as used by funding bodies.

Frascati definition of research

The definition used by the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA), based on the Frascati Manual, is used to determine whether a project can be classified as research:

Research and experimental development (R&D) comprises creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications. R&D is a term covering three activities: basic research, applied research and experimental development.

  • Basic research
    Experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.
  • Applied research
    Also original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.
  • Experimental development
    Systematic work, drawing on existing knowledge gained from research and/or practical experience that is directed to producing new materials, products or devices, to installing new processes, systems and services, or to improving substantially those already produced or installed.


In practice, deciding whether a piece of work can or cannot be classed as research is usually but not always straightforward.  However, the following are examples of activities that are not normally classed as research: 

  • Routine testing and analysis of materials
  • Components and processes, (eg for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques)
  • Feasibility studies (where it is not an integral part of an overall research project)
  • Routine software development
  • General purpose data collection

Around 45,000 trees and shrubs have been planted on campus


If your project is not classified as research it may be classified as:

Funding, grants and contracts