Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Guidance: Using the interactive Costing Tool (iCT)


Published: 01 September 2022

Version: 1.3 - July 2023

Print this document


The web-based interactive Costing Tool (iCT) provides a framework for transparent cost display and calculation to support swift local site budget negotiations when planning commercial trials in the NHS.

This digital version of the iCT enables even faster costing and contracting between the life sciences industry and the NHS as part of the study set-up phase. The tool is available as a module within the NIHR Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS) and includes a number of major improvements.

The information on this page will signpost you to all the available guidance you need to begin using the iCT.

How we use the iCT to support the National Contract Value Review Process:

The following animation provides an overview of the iCT and its role in supporting a UK National Contract Value Review Process from October. Find out more about this change on the NHS England website.

Helpful infographics

You can also view some helpful infographics which summarise some of the main features of the new UK national contract value review process.  

Employees of life sciences companies and contract research organisations may find the infographic describing the  Company Representative iCT User Role Profile (Infogram) useful.

Why use the iCT?

With improved usability, functionality, reliability and compatibility the CPMS-based system makes it quicker and easier to set up commercial studies in the NHS through increased accuracy and visibility of commercial costing. The iCT underpins the transition to a single review process for all commercial studies - minimising the time required to negotiate the cost for delivering research at an individual site.

Here are some iCT functionality improvements at a glance:

  • Compatibility
    The web-based iCT works on any computer - overcoming software compatibility issues with the previous Excel-based version of the tool
  • Usability
    With a simple layout, the iCT is a fully automated costing solution - accessible from the NIHR Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS)
  • Reliability
    Updates or changes to the system are now a seamless process, improving system reliability
  • Improved audit functionality
    The iCT app contains a central log of all adjustments made as part of the contract negotiation process - enabling NIHR to further streamline processes by identifying any issues or delays
  • Visibility
    It enables resource requirements determined at a site level to be shared with others involved in the study within the system, avoiding duplication of effort.

What you need to use the system

  1. You will need a Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS) account to use the interactive Costing Tool. This is available via individual or group email addresses (multiple uses of the same group log-in can be used via an ‘incognito’ or ‘private’ browser window). To create an account, follow the ‘Create an Account’ button on the CPMS homepage.
  2. We suggest that all users of iCT in CPMS view all of the instructional videos as they clearly link the various stages of iCT completion as it moves through the CPMS system. See ‘Video Tutorials’ below.
  3. You will also need a copy of the protocol and other study documentation or information relevant to understanding the resource requirements for the study, ideally reflecting the versions planned for submission with your study approvals.
  4. To submit your iCT for review by the NHS, you will need to know your Chief Investigator location. Our support services can help you find one.

Where the data comes from

iCT tariff data

Interactive costing tool data 2023-2024 version 1.8

National tariff workbooks within a single Excel file. Contains data for the following:

  • Investigation and Intervention Tariff
  • Departmental, Set Up and Closedown Tariff
  • Procedures Definitions and Tariff
  • NHSE Market Forces Factor
  • NCVR Commitment to adhere to the organisation specific iCT generated prices.

There are annual updates made to include changes to costs and inflation in the tool, alongside revised Market Forces Factor rates from NHSE. This affects the costs generated by the tool from April each year, so costs in iCT will vary from those generated in financial appendices previous to this date. Labour based activity costs and Market Forces Factors are backdated.

Annual updates for 23/24 interactive Costing Tool: 5% for pay and 2.9% inflation

Recognising the current uncertainty around staff pay rates, which also impacts the calculation of the NHSE cost uplift factor, it was agreed to apply the currently proposed values for annual updates in April and monitor the requirement for further in-year adjustments:

  • Non-medical pay rates have been uplifted by 5%, based on the most recently proposed pay increase
  • Medical rates, based at the top of the band, remain unchanged
  • Investigations have been uplifted by 2.9% cost inflation factor as outlined in the NHSE 2023/25 proposal
  • NHSE Market Forces Factor reflects the final year values of a locational factor prior to changes that reflect an Integrated Care Board structure.

Mid-year revisions are likely

Despite this pragmatic approach from April, there may be a requirement to revise these adjustments in-year. The impact on workload this additional change creates is acknowledged and reflects the desire to manage this in a pragmatic way.

Supporting Primary Care Research Participation

The NIHR Primary Care Strategy Group made a recommendation to revise the Patient Identification Centres activities to reflect three levels of involvement. This has been reflected in the interactive Costing Tool 2023/24 version. The change includes support to engage with Primary Care representatives to determine the level required for each study. This will be incorporated into the study resource review activities by the Lead NHS provider, in line with the National Contract Value Review.

Stay up to date with the interactive Costing Tool activities by signing up to the NIHR Industry newsletter.

Further guidance and supporting information

Functionality updates

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

  1. The availability of a ‘Setup & Close-down’ separate to the per-participant budget at the study level. This allows Company Representatives to add generic Setup & Close-down activities to the iCT from the start of their submission, rather than only at the site level following validation.
  2. The ability for Company Representatives to add Site Representatives to the iCT themselves.
  3. The ability for Company Representatives to preview site costs before releasing to Site Representatives.
  4. The ability to mark a Site iCT as ‘Complete’ to indicate that the review of the site costs has been completed.
  5. The ability to be able to change the status of a ‘Complete’ Site iCT to allow amendments to be made.
  6. The ability for Company Representatives to Delete a Site iCT at any stage of the review process. Allowing Company Representatives to ‘re-release’ a Site iCT (by deleting and creating again) when an amendment is made in a Study-level iCT so that these changes will also be reflected in the Site iCT. Rather than having to update each Site iCT with the same amendment individually.
  7. The ability for users to add new occurrences/activity counts for an existing activity/visit without having to enter a free text comment, reducing the number of clicks and saving users time completing or reviewing the iCT.  
  8. The ability for a user to add new visits/activities and their associated occurrences/activity counts with only one comment.
  9. The ability for users to view and accept grouped comments with one click.
  10. The ability for Company Representatives to hide organisations in the iCT list of study organisations.

Please submit your comments and 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

For general queries please email:

If you are seeking support at a local level in relation to a particular site please contact your Local Clinical Research Network.