Why the Impact Section is Crucial for Successful Grant Funding Applications
Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Describing the technical aspects of a project is usually the main focus – but communicating its potential impact is just as important
Funding applications for different projects – and from different calls or RFPs (requests for proposals) – are indeed different. However, they more or less follow a loose formula or structure, especially for calls within the EU – and even more so under Horizon Europe. All proposals for developing projects aimed at taking ideas from the lab and ultimately into the real world need to have certain elements to communicate how the technology or idea will come to fruition – and how it will be useful if funded. In this, it is necessary to include technical aspects of the proposed project, along with details on how it will be implemented if the funding is awarded, and how the idea at the heart of the project will benefit, at the very least, industry and key stakeholder groups, if not the entirety of the country, the continent, or the world.
It is this last piece that is of perhaps of the utmost importance. And it is also the piece that many project developers and scientists either focus on less than the technical aspects or fail to grasp the significance of how this section will influence funding decisions.
What is the Impact Section?
The Impact Section functions much like a narrative of the project being proposed and gives the story line of the project, extending beyond the end date. Narratives are incredibly powerful, even in scientific applications – perhaps just as much as in non-scientific ones. They communicate the need for the proposed project, the opportunities it can create and the niche it can fill in whatever market it is intended to service, from small and local to incredibly large and worldwide. The Impact Section is like a marketing pitch, addressing areas that can be addressed by a successfully funded project and how it will help society, the economy, and even scientific progress in general. Writing an Impact Section needs to toe a delicate line between promoting potential benefits and offering quantitative evidence of how this will occur, along with qualitative evidence that can support more numerical-based claims. It also needs to be developed in balance with the other sections of the proposal, with careful attention being paid to not repeating that which is outlined in the technical descriptions (such as the Excellence Section in Horizon Europe proposals) or getting too detailed on implementation, which is usually detailed in a separate section.
How the Impact Section differs from Scientific Excellence and Implementation Sections
In a typical Horizon Europe proposal, which is the current main funding arm of the EU, there are three main sections: the Excellence, Impact, and Implementation sections. For other funding sources, these do not need to be written as such; they can be labeled differently, but they will cover many of the same details.
The Excellence Section, or other section on the scope of the project, sets the overall concept of the proposal, mainly from a technical standpoint, but also from a planning, implementation, and even an impact perspective. The main aim and objectives of the project are stated along with a description of the main innovations to be realized. Measurements, plans, specifications, and other technical aspects are the domain of the initial section, leaving space for the impact and implementation to be discussed in detail in the following sections.
The Implementation Section, or a similarly worded section, tends to cover more of the aspects of how the project will operate from a logistical perspective, how it will use funding if approved, and how project management will commence. It is necessary and important, as funders want to see a realistic, coherent plan for how a project will come to be; they do not want to waste money on a good idea that lacks execution and proper planning. A description of each of the partners of the consortium is also usually given, showing that the required areas of expertise are present in the project.
The Impact Section, section 2 in Horizon Europe, is sandwiched between the two listed above. A good proposal will use this section to demonstrate the need for the idea or breakthrough technology at the heart of the project, utilizing a narrative based on facts, figures, and an understanding of the market it is meant to enter. An assessment of the future business case, even at a high level, should be presented, possibly for each of the industrial partners involved. How the results of the project will be communicated and exploited is another key aspect that should be thoroughly thought through during the proposal development process.
All three sections are important: if any one of them is done poorly, the proposal will have a slim chance to succeed. A challenge is often seen in finding the right tone and striking the right balance between explaining narrative and providing evidence, which can be especially difficult for the Impact Section. A good Impact Section can really bolster a proposal’s chances of success; a poor one will fail to show the importance of why the project should be funded and, ultimately, will often stop it before it even gets started.
Why the Impact Section is vital for proposal success
There are three main reasons why the Impact Section is crucial for proposal success, which have all been briefly touched on above, and are covered in more detail below:
1. Setting the narrative
As stated earlier, narratives matter – even when it comes to scientific publications and grant proposals. The Impact Section is where this narrative is set and details why the project should take place, how it will help the targeted market, and what makes it different from other projects being proposed.
2. Explaining the real-world significance of what the project can achieve
Within the narrative, one of the main things to touch on in the Impact Section is what the real-world significance will be for the project being proposed. Projects being funded need to be useful if they are funded, beyond just in the lab. Communicating this is crucial – and takes place in this section.
3. Showing project funders that their money will be of good use
Lastly, the Impact Section is where the proposal shows that the money being provided from the grant being applied for will be put to good use. This includes how the proposed project will contribute to scientific, economic, and societal benefits. However, this does not include the structure and plans for how the money will be used; that comes next in the Implementation Section. The Impact Section provides more of a general, evidenced-based narrative that details how the money will be translated into benefits for the markets described above.
How Linq can help develop your proposal’s Impact Section
Linq Consulting specializes in all areas of creating and managing successful proposals, with experience crafting all three main sections of typical Horizon Europe proposals, as well as proposals for other funding sources. Our team of expert researchers, writers, and project managers can help with all aspects of obtaining grant funding – but we are particularly well-suited to address and skillfully create Impact Sections that toe the line between writing a convincing narrative and providing evidence-based details.
In addition to expertly crafting all three main sections of a proposal, Linq has extensive experience managing the dissemination, communication, and exploitation tasks within running projects – helping to ensure the envisioned impacts are realized. Linq provides full descriptions of these tasks (section 2.2. in Horizon Europe) and works with the partners to optimize the activities based on the specific nature of the project and envisioned pathways to commercialization.
For more information on how we can help, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more about our services here.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @linq-consulting and connect with us on LinkedIn