1. Identify funding opportunity 

See our funding section to help you find upcoming/current funding opportunities, or make use of Research Professional Africa to identify specific opportunities. 

2. Establish internal deadlines  

Key internal deadlines 

  • Faculty: 10 working days from funder deadline (recommended) 
  • Institution (RC&I): 5 working days from funder deadline (required) 

Internal deadlines allow for a thorough review of an application and enough time to make any necessary amendments. Internal deadlines may differ faculty by faculty but we recommend that PIs submit their approval form, via the eRA pre-award approval form to the finance approver 10 working days before the funder deadline to obtain timeous approval .  

PIs will need to liaise with their faculty approval signatories about turn-around times. 

For applications submitted via online electronic systems (e.g. NIH's ASSIST or UKRI's Je-S), the researcher must complete and submit the funder’s online application form and faculty-approved eRA pre-award form by the date of the RC&I internal deadline (5 working days before funder deadline). If applicable, all funder compliance requirements must be in place by the internal RC&I deadline. 
For email-/paper-based submissions requiring institutional signoff, RC&I must receive a copy of the application complete with required signature pages via the eRA system, following internal faculty approval, by the date of the RC&I internal deadline. 

Please note, should you as PI not adhere to these internal deadlines, internal approval of your application prior to the funder’s submission deadline cannot be guaranteed. 

3. Develop supporting documentation 

When initiating your proposal, a critical first step is to obtain the application guidelines provided by the funder. Be sure to download, read and adhere to the guidelines. 


  • Respond to all sections of the application. 
  • Adhere to any format restrictions. 
  • Topics must be covered in the order presented in the guidelines. 
  • Use headings that correspond to the guidelines. 
  • Refer to the funder’s review criteria as well; these provide useful insight into what is considered by the funder to be the critical areas to address in the application. 
  • Funders will often provide a template for you to use for your application, whether it be online, as a Word document, or as a list of required section headings. The application will, however, generally consist of three main components: the research strategy (aims & objectives, background, methods, expected outcomes etc.), the budget, and supporting documentation. 

When drafting your proposal, ensure you manage your time based on internal deadlines and NOT the funder’s deadline. This is an important consideration to ensure you offer any co-applicants sufficient time to review the draft proposal and provide input (Note: When working with international collaborators, be sure to take time differences into account to help ensure timeous feedback can be provided).  

3.1 Request an Institutional Letter of Support  

Where a letter of support (LoS) is required by a funder in support of your application, PIs must request this at least five working days prior to any internal submission deadlines (PI to provide a draft LoS).    

  • Make sure you check who the funder requires as the signatory on the LOS, be it department, faculty or institution. 
  • If any commitments are to be made in terms of release from teaching or training oblications be sure to obtain prior approval from your Head of Department/Division before seeking signature of the final letter.  
  • If unsure of specifics around the letter of support, please contact Research Support Services. 

3.2 Develop an appropriate budget 

Budgets are crucial to an application as they are a key indicator of a project’s feasibility and form a key consideration in the review process. For assistance with your research budget contact your Departmental Finance Office (Budget Reviewer) who will be able to offer guidance on exchange rates, inflation, VAT, cost categories, and the inclusion of support functions. 

In support of your proposed budget, be sure to include a justification for the requested costs. Be as thorough as possible with the justification, clearly indicating why the cost is required to complete the proposed project. 

4. eRA pre-awards approval process 

The Pre-awards section of the 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. 

Before submitting a funding application the PI needs to complete a pre-awards proposal approval form through the eRA system. 

4.1 Current exceptions for eRA pre-awards approval process 

4.2 Complete the proposal approval form 

  • Visit UCT’s Research Portal and log in to the system using the Login option at the top right-hand corner of the screen. 
  • Choose the “Project Application/Approval Request” in the right hand corner of the dashboard under the ”Add New Content” button? 
  • Under the “Other Funding Schemes” menu, choose “Application stage approvals” 
  • The PI uploads the requested project documents, and captures key project information and details relating to resourcing, ethics and biosafety online. 
  • The form is sent (also online) to Departmental Finance Staff (Budget Reviewer) to complete project-related finance information that was discussed with the PI prior to submission of the form. 
  • The PI confirms their agreement with this financial information and sends the form to the Finance Approver step. 
  • Internal review and approval is then completed by relevant Faculty Finance and Deanery staff. 
  • Completion of internal approval through the eRA system will deem your application ready for submission by the institution (or PI) to the funder. Importantly, please note, your application is not submitted to the funder via the eRA system. 

5. Submit application to funder 

Upload all application components to funder’s online system OR email full application to funder (follow funder guidelines) once internal approval is obtained. 

Submit online – funders such as Wellcome Trust and the NIH require institutional signoff and submission of applications. When submitting through the funder’s online portal the application is first routed through UCT’s RC&I Office for final submission to the funder. NRF applications are similarly first routed through UCT’s Research Office for final submission. 

* Current exceptions

  • National Research Foundation (NRF) internal review and submission process

    Step 1: Applicants who submit applications by the internal closing deadline are guaranteed an internal review. 
    Step 2: Internal review is undertaken by the Research Office. In rare but necessary cases – Thuthuka, CPRR and CSUR – scientific reviews are also undertaken by discipline experts. 
    Step 3: Feedback is provided to applicants and, if necessary, applications reopened for amendment. 
    Step 4: Applicants resubmit applications before the NRF final deadline.

  • Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) & Poliomyelitis Research Foundation (PRF) internal review and submission process

    To apply, researchers email their completed application form to the funder and copy an administrator in the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Office (Lamees Emjedi).  

    The administrator will get institutional approval from the Deputy Dean for Research and forward this to the funder.

  • South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) internal review and submission process  

    • For the SAMRC Self-Initiated Research (SIR) grant scheme, 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 online submission to the funder. 

    • Some of the other SAMRC schemes (e.g. SHIP) require completion of a form (e.g. Word document) that requires a signature from the institution (sometimes centrally, e.g. the Deputy Vice-Chancellor) and then an emailed submission to the funder is completed. These types of applications will be required to go through the internal eRA approval system before final submission to the funder.