Updated: Jun 22, 2020
In the ideal world of research, you have a great idea, you know it will greatly benefit society, everyone believes you, and the government practically throws money at you for funding. Coming back to reality, the more groundbreaking your idea is, the harder it can be to secure the right funding from the right funder. While there is, unfortunately, no copy and paste method for writing grant applications and getting the green light for another few years, there are actions that you can take to increase your chances of success. We will elaborate on some of these in future posts, but here is an overview to get you started. If you want assistance in any or all of these steps, with a proposal review or even grant writing, Linq can of course help you out!
Start on time
We all know it in the back of our minds as the funding opportunities are announced that we should really get started early this time, but still for some, nothing happens until 2 months before a proposal submission deadline. Regardless, it must be said here and as point #1 that starting on time is one of the best things you can do to help put together a winning research proposal. Having time to properly conduct a proposal review, especially with larger consortia, and really understand what you are actually going to do not only makes for a much more cohesive and clear document, but will also allow the project itself to run more smoothly, without unwanted conflicts between expectations and what is written in the research plan.
Go through the call text with a fine-tooth comb
A quick way to lose points during the proposal evaluation is to not address everything that the funding authority is looking for in the grant funding statement. While at first glance, you may believe that you have an idea and consortium that address all of the expected impacts, this may not be the case. Going through a call text line by line, word for word, will allow you to pick up on subtleties that may otherwise be missed. Try highlighting key phases, ensuring that they are accounted for in the tasks of the partners, and then make sure they come back in the actual text. Take note of the expected award amount and use that in scoping the overall concept. Make sure there is no doubt that you understand exactly what the call is about and that you have it covered. This is an important part of the review criteria, which you should also be very familiar with and refer back to throughout the proposal development.
Work out the business case
An area of the Impact section of Horizon 2020 proposals (and similar sections from other funding programs) that is becoming increasingly important is the calculation of the business case. While this may now be often a requirement for some grant applications, it is actually a best practice in general for anyone already at the idea phase. A business case gives insights into the potential of the technology and the bottlenecks in development. Having a good understanding of the business case allows you to tailor your proposal and research plan to those issues which are most relevant for a given topic and shows a roadmap to commercialisation beyond the specific grant application you are working on. Get in touch with us for help with working this out!
Get the industrial partners involved
Almost any successful grant application has industrial partners in the consortium. This shows interest from potential end users of a technology, market need, and consideration of the supply chain. This is well-known in the world of grant writing. However, what is not always exploited is the market specific knowledge and insights that these partners can bring in already in the proposal development phase. These partners are invaluable in guiding research directions and truly understanding the economic impact that a technology can have. As an added bonus, involving a partner extensively in the proposal phase often leads to a higher commitment throughout the project lifetime.
Contact your local NCP
Do you know who your National Contact Point is? Do you know how to find this out? Click here for a good place to start. Then get on the phone. NCP's have insider knowledge that is invaluable to your proposal and can greatly increase your success rates. Ideally, you should check your idea with them before ever starting, then again once things are on a roll, and then again when you have a complete draft. They can help you evaluate your idea against the call text, find partners, and understand what is behind the funding opportunity. Getting this help does of course require starting on time (see the first action above).
Connect with current EU policy
When writing a successful grant application, you need to look at things from two viewpoints: as a researcher and as a policy maker. Regardless of how innovative your idea is, if it doesn't address current targets and policies relevant for the research funding agency, it will not be accepted. Ever. Your grant application is reviewed and scored by designated reviewers, who usually have a technical or otherwise relevant background. They asses the soundness of the science, overall approach, and expected impacts against the review criteria. However, they do not make the final decision. That is up to the policy makers, which ties into the last action...
Spend some time on the summary
The summary of a Horizon 2020 grant application is a little section at the very beginning of the proposal which is very easy to overlook and often left until the last minute before submitting the proposal. But this brief, inconspicuous paragraph is actually highly important. After your proposal is reviewed and scored, and has (hopefully) met the threshold requirement, it goes to the panel stage. And there is your proposal, which you and your partners have worked hours and hours on, laying next to all of the other similar proposals. If you have scored a 14.5 or even a 15, pat yourself on the back as it will almost certainly be granted. But what about when you get around a 13 or so? This is where the policy makers mentioned above come in. Your proposal will be discussed by all those on the panel, made up of the reviewers and the policy makers. To start off the discussion (you can guess this by now), the summary will be read aloud. Want to make your proposal stand out above the rest? Make your summary grab the interest of the policy makers!
We hope these tips help you realise a successful grant proposal and a less stressful grant writing experience! For more information or to work together, just let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.