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How the interactive Costing Tool (iCT) calculates the costs of studies at sites


Published: 20 November 2023

Version: 1.0

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ICT - Linking people together to make UK study costing fair and transparent for everybody


This digital document provides information about the data sources which enable the interactive Costing Tool (iCT) to calculate the costs of studies at sites. The iCT is one of two UK-wide tools you will need to use to complete the National Contract Value Review (NCVR) - the UK’s standardised, national approach to costing and contracting for commercial contract research. The iCT is also required as part of your Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) submission for study approvals.

Use the interactive Costing Tool (iCT)

If you need help to access and use the interactive Costing Tool (iCT) read our digital guidance document: Guidance: Using the interactive Costing Tool (iCT)

Learn about NCVR

If you are not familiar with NCVR, visit our Costing and contracting using National Contract Value Review web page. This helpful overview explains what NCVR is, why it has been implemented, and how it is helping to speed up the costing and contracting activities for commercial clinical research in the UK.

Provision of the iCT is just one of the ways we support the life science industry to plan, place and perform commercial clinical research in the UK. Visit our Offer to the life sciences industry web page to discover our full range of support.

If you need help submitting your study for National Contract Value Review please email the Study Support Service Helpdesk:

Where the data comes from

iCT uses data from a range of sources that are continually reviewed and updated.

  • Annual Salaries from NHS Employers using top of the band and including prospective uplifts
  • Apprenticeship Levy from NHS Employers 0.5%PA for all NHS gross pay costs
  • Investigation cost baselining via Specialist Working Groups at Senior Institute Level (e.g. Royal College of Pathology, Royal Institute of Ophthalmology) via the NIHR Costing Models Working Group
  • NHS cost uplift factor from NHSE used to inflate investigation costs on an annual basis.

iCT tariff data

The prices (tariffs) associated with activities required to set up and deliver the trial can be viewed in the Interactive costing tool data 2024-2025 spreadsheet.v1. The suggested timings and associated prices are guidance values which are adjusted during the NCVR process to reflect the requirements of the protocol. It contains multiple worksheets for:

  • Investigation and Intervention Tariff
  • Departmental, Set Up and Closedown Tariff
  • Procedures Definitions and Tariff
  • Research Market Forces Factor.

Every April, for each new financial year, all tariffs within the tool are updated and uplift is applied for inflation. Consequently, live values in iCT will vary from those generated in financial appendices prior to the April uplift. Labour-based activity costs and Market Forces Factors are backdated.

Mid-financial-year tariff changes from October 2023 to deliver NCVR stage 2: Ceasing local negotiation for late phase studies

Prior to October 2023 it was possible to amend site level price calculations locally. From October 2023, all local adjustments to the study level pricing ceased for late phase studies to deliver NCVR stage 2. A number of mid-financial-year adjustments have been made during this transition to accommodate price variations across the system:

  • Medical pay rates have been uplifted by 6% reflecting the recent pay increase. Non-medical rates were uplifted in April.
  • R&D set-up activities have moved from a unit cost to a time based calculation, with complexity tiers.
  • Investigations have been uplifted by 2.3% to reflect the current 5.2% NHSE cost uplift factor with radiology and nuclear medicine uplifted by a further 6.7% (consumer price index) to reflect outsourcing.
  • Research Market Forces Factor for each NHS Organisation reflects a locational factor, setting requirements, dedicated infrastructure and local provisions as well as equity of access.
  • Site specific pass throughs, including archiving and patient expenses, have been removed in line with inclusion in the model agreement financial appendix (available via IRAS help).
  • The Chief Investigator fee has been removed. Lead sites and sponsors can work together to determine the resources required for this role and put in place a suitable consultancy agreement.

Help us to improve the iCT

Please submit your suggestions for the future development of the iCT via our iCT feedback form. All suggestions are reviewed and we have a mechanism for identifying and prioritising improvement suggestions to ensure we are responding to iCT user needs.

Where can I get more advice or support

Stay up to date

Get all the latest updates on with the interactive Costing Tool by signing up to the NIHR newsletter for the Life Sciences Industry.