The 5 ‘Golden Rules’ for e-submission of bid applications

For all standard RCUK bids (for example AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC, etc), the requirement is for the completed application to be submitted on J-es (J-es is the Research Councils’ web-based Joint Electronic Submission system for grant applications and award administration) by the Principal Investigator at least 5 working days before the application deadline.

The flowchart below illustrates the basic steps involved in the  ‘behind-the-scenes’ administration of  J-es bid applications before they are finally submitted to the councils.

As demonstrated in the flowchart, bid applications submitted through J-es are not exactly straightforward and quite often can be time-consuming and frustrating in some cases. Even when a bid application is ‘perfect’ in the eyes of the J-es checkers and institutional approvers, the process will still take up at least two working days, depending on the length of the application, and the availability of both J-es checkers and institutional approvers. Therefore, the 5-working-day turnaround will allow just enough time for potential changes and alterations to be made to the applications in order to maximise chances of success.  

When asked about the most common factors which delay the submission of a bid to J-es, institutional approvers and J-es checkers have collectively identified the following:

EligibilityThe eligibility of the PI is the first thing which you need to check, before embarking on the roller coaster ride of a bid application. The variety of funding bids from numerous research councils available out there means that each bid will come with a different guidance note. Even within the same research councils, guidance can sometimes differ between two separate funding opportunities.

Start date and duration of projectThe start date and the duration of the project should be planned in accordance with the funding guidance. For example, most of the times, funding councils require a minimum of 24 weeks between the bid submission date and the project start date but this can be different for each council. When there is a last minute change on J-es for the project start date or duration, this often involves a lengthy process as all previous costing figures provided for the project would have changed too.

AttachmentsAlthough providing a comprehensive CV or showing proof of all previous track records can be beneficial to your application, it is important to bear in mind that this is not always required. RKEO cannot stress enough times, the importance of reading the guidance and only attaching the required documents.  We have had applications returned to us due to attachments that were not specifically required and this will inevitably have an impact on the success of the application. 

Letter of supportThis is a major contributing factor to the delays in bid submission as quite often, letters of support come from external organisations or people and can take time to come back if there is missing or incorrect information that needs to be changed. And quite often, the most important and yet common missing information on a letter of support can be as simple as the date or signature.


FormatThe formatting on bid application documents is a constant bugbear for J-es checkers and institutional approvers. In the attempt to squeeze in as many words as possible onto the application document, the minimum margins, font size and page limit as stipulated by the council is quite often overlooked by PIs and this can cause unnecessary delays in the submission of the bid application.

These are just a few examples of cases which can cause unnecessary delay and angst in the process of submitting a bid application. Although they may seem obvious, knowing these factors may end up saving you time in the long run!

If you are interested in applying for a funding bid and would like to speak to one of us, do get in touch with us at the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office at 01202 961200.