Research Innovation Enterprise

What are the responsibilities of being a Principal Investigator on a Research & Innovation project? 

The Principal Investigator (PI) of a project is the individual who takes responsibility for intellectual leadership, and the overall management of the project. This covers many aspects of project development, from concept to beyond the project end-date, and in the dissemination of project outputs and outcomes. As such there are several expectations of this individual which come from the University and funder expectations, as well as sector concordats. 


Many R&I funding schemes have defined criteria for PI’s. In most cases there is an expectation that the PI has an employment contract beyond the end of the project, to ensure delivery of the work as proposed. Exceptions to this are fellowships where the funding will cover the full costs of the PI’s salary for the duration. There will always be an expectation that the PI is suitably experienced to deliver the work – this could be previous experience or expertise in the discipline. 

At Edinburgh Napier it is expected that a PI will hold a permanent post or be a Principal Research Fellow (Grade 7). Fixed-term staff may be eligible if the School is prepared to give the individual all the support normal for a permanent employee and they are eligible to be PI as per the funding stream rules. PI must be grade 5 and above. 

Project planning responsibilities: 

When planning your project, whether it be externally funded or not, there are a number of things to consider:

  1. Getting the project team together with the appropriate expertise and skills to deliver 
  2. Will there be collaborators from other organisations? How will you find these people?
  3. What due diligence will the university need to do to understand these new relationships?
  4. What do you need to purchase, and what procurement rules within the University apply?
  5. What methods and data will you use and create, and how will you disseminate your findings? 
  6. What ethical, integrity and governance requirements will you need to adhere to?
  7. What are the funder-specific requirements for your project?

This pre-award checklist created in 2018 can help you navigate through the process. The research funding and business development teams in RIE can assist with 1 and 7. Creating a data management plan and having it reviewed can help you get advice on 4-6. 

Project management responsibilities: 

During the life of your project there will be responsibilities:

  • building on pre-award actions
  • keeping the project on schedule
  • compliance with funder terms
  • managing a team
  • dissemination of the research, including –  
    1. when externally funded, working with RIE staff to ‘set up’ the project
    2. recruitment of staff to the project team, getting them attributed to the project records in Worktribe, and providing time sheets for part-time workers 
    3. delegating any project team responsibilities and documenting this on the project record in Worktribe 
    4. ensuring any Ethics approvals and amendments are in place, if required for the nature of the project 
    5. checking all procurement requirements for any purchases 
    6. taking care that research data is managed, archived, and deposited in the repository as required by University/external policies 
    7. depositing outputs (including datasets), in the repository, to make the research open  
    8. reporting progress to funders or the University as required. 

This post-award checklist created in 2018 can help you navigate through the process. Project officers in RIE can assist with advice on data-management and making data open, contact . For advice and support on the repository, and depositing outputs, contact, or check out the Worktribe outputs user guide.