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Guidance: Using the interactive Costing Tool (iCT)


Published: 18 October 2023

Version: 1.4 - October 2023

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


This digital guidance document provides information about how to access and use the interactive Costing Tool (iCT). The iCT is one of two UK-wide tools you will need to use to complete the National Contract Value Review (NCVR) process - 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.

iCT tariff data

To view the iCT tariff data, read our supporting information: How the interactive Costing Tool (iCT) calculates the costs of studies at sites

Learn about NCVR

If you are not familiar with NCVR, visit our Costing and contracting using National Contract Value Review (NCVR) 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 page to discover our full range of support.

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

What is the iCT?

The iCT is a web-based tool through which the UK’s standardised costing methodology is accessed and applied to commercial clinical trials. It is managed by the NIHR. This tool is used for:

  • determining resource requirements for study delivery at a national level and;
  • calculating site-specific prices.

Benefits of using iCT to support the National Contract Value Review Process

Further to the benefits of NCVR outlined on our Costing and contracting using National Contract Value Review (NCVR) web page, the iCT specifically:

  • Provides the platform to enable partnership working with commercial study sponsors and multiple NHS organisations to ensure commercial trials are costed correctly and full cost recovery is achieved for the NHS - a publicly funded healthcare system
  • Creates transparency and helps to improve understanding of study costs by providing an audit trail of adjustments made during the national review
  • Provides price predictability to support study budget management
  • Streamlines administrative processes by providing the costs as a financial appendix for direct insertion into the site-specific contracts.
  • Helps to free up time and resource for other study set-up activities
  • Helps to ensure better distribution of research and equity of access for patients by creating a transparent, fair system
  • Enables links to other NIHR support services because the iCT is available as a module within the NIHR Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS)

Animation: The role of the interactive Costing Tool (iCT) in supporting the National Contract Value Review

The following animation provides an overview of the iCT, its role in supporting a UK National Contract Value Review Process, as well as some top tips for those using the tool.

Infographics: The NCVR process and role profiles

This suite of infographics help to explain the NCVR process, including the different roles of the people involved:

Explanations of the key responsibilities for all three user roles, including some handy top tips:

What you need to use the system

  • You will need a Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS) account to use the interactive Costing Tool. To create an account, follow the "Create an Account" button on the CPMS homepage. If you use a shared email address (multiple users, one inbox) you must have access to the inbox as CPMS uses Multi-Factor Authentication and will issue OTPs (One Time Passcodes).
  • All users of iCT should view our instructional videos which provide guidance on the stages of iCT completion.
  • You will need a copy of the study protocol or other study documentation describing the resource requirements for the study. This must be the same version that you plan to submit with your study approvals request in IRAS.
  • To submit your iCT for review by the NHS, you will need to know your Chief Investigator location and Lead NHS site. Contact our national industry team if you need help identifying potential sites and investigators, or request our 'Site Identification' service in CPMS. 

Using iCT to generate costs for research activity in primary care setting

NCVR is being rolled out in stages and is currently optional for commercial studies taking place outside of NHS hospitals, for example in GP practices. However, work is underway to bring the full benefits of NCVR to primary care and GPs (General Practice) can register themselves as voluntarily committing to accepting NCVR prices and stopping local negotiations.

Commercial sponsors can now consult the list of GPs (General Practice) accepting NCVR prices when making their site selection decisions. This list is accessed via a dedicated NCVR Primary Care dashboard.

An iCT instructional video has been developed specifically for primary care and includes information on costing considerations and top-tips for commercial trials taking place in non-hospital settings.

Latest functionality updates

We are continually improving the iCT in response to feedback from users. Recent changes made in the iCT include:

  • October 2023: A new Setup and Closedown activity type: General Procedures have been created to allow previously unit based Departmental activities to be calculated more accurately according to staff role(s) and time required for the specific study.
  • October 2023: Export for direct inclusion in the UK model agreement (IRAS): The Financial Appendix has been renamed as the Finance Schedule in line with changes to the UK model agreements. The Finance Schedule wording has been updated and this document can be used to populate the Financial Arrangements Appendix of the model agreements.

Earlier updates

  • New section for unscheduled activities: Additional itemised unscheduled activity costs have been removed from iCT study arms with a new Unscheduled Activities section created. This means users only need to enter additional itemised costs once across the whole study, rather than in individual arms, removing duplication of work. This sits in line with the All Other Fees section of the Financial Arrangements Appendix of the updated UK model agreements.
  • Move activities within the tool: Users retain the ability to move scheduled activities from the All Participants and Some Participants tables in the study arms into the Unscheduled Activities section. Users are also able to move activities from the Unscheduled Activities section back into the All Participants and Some Participants table of one or multiple study arms in one action.
  • See indicative prices earlier: The study level iCT arm summary calculations now provide an estimated total price of running the study at UK sites from draft status onwards. Overheads (indirect costs and capacity building) and an average research Market Forces Factor (MFF) value are used to calculate the estimates. This improves transparency and supports budget setting .
  • Guidance text embedded within the tool: The Study Resources guidance text within the commercial submission has been updated to reflect changes to the UK model agreements and advises users on what should no longer be included in the iCT.

If you have questions about older updates, please get in touch:

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.

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.

Further guidance and supporting information