Research & development (R&D) grant funding involves a competitive and often time-consuming application process. A successful approach involves having a defined R&D project before commencing your bid writing process.
This will ensure that your project is aligned with the scope of any given competition, improving the quality of your proposition whilst keeping a consistent narrative and alignment to your wider company strategy, catching the attention of funding bodies.
This blog focuses on 6 key areas to help guide the development of a grant-fundable project, think of it as a pre-bid sanity check!
The grant funding landscape can be complex and occasionally quite niche. Funding bodies decide well in advance the areas they wish to focus awards. Some funding bodies cover a wide range of industries (e.g., Innovate UK), while others focus on a particular field (e.g., SBRI, NIHR: MedTech/Healthcare).
Before you embark on your grant funding journey, it’s important to find funds most applicable to your business, innovation, and funding/R&D timeline. When a competition is released, the funding body will outline the scope of their competition; the rules in which applicants need to operate to successfully achieve an award.
These typically include:
Funding bodies will expect you to evidence your fit to the scope of the competition, failure to do so will result in your application being rejected before they assess the more interesting elements of your proposal.
For your project to be considered an investable, credible business opportunity worthy of grant funding, you need to clearly define your project outcomes and objectives. The first thing assessors evaluate is whether there is a clear and researched business opportunity and a consistent link between the problem you are looking to solve and the solution you are proposing to address.
Conduct and include up-to-date market research that outlines your strategy for market entry: What does the current market look like? What are the current market dynamics (is it growing? How fast? What trends affect it? What is the competition? What are the barriers to entry?).
Also, consider how your innovation project will generate commercial returns. Include details of realistic, quantified project outputs, and explain how you’ll execute market exploitation strategies, including your sales/service model and growth plans. Funding bodies expect to see a link between grant investment and company growth, market disruption, and a marked step change over current and existing approaches.
Now that you have defined the market need for your innovation, clearly outlined your project deliverables and established your market exploitation strategy, how will you achieve and execute your project?
Funding bodies expect a fully detailed project plan, one that includes Work Packages with designated leads, and clear reporting lines. Typically, two types of project management methodology are used, Agile (an incremental, iterative approach that separates a project into sprints ) and/or Waterfall (a linear and sequential approach that divides a project into phases).
Funding bodies typically request a GANTT chart (or a similar visualisation in a specified format) that confidently presents your desired approach. Your visualisation should highlight incremental tasks, milestones and deliverables that are linked to your overall project objectives.
Top tips for developing outcomes and objectives:
Funding bodies want to know who is on your team and that they have the expertise to execute your proposed innovation project.
A common misconception when resourcing is that all company staff need to be working on the project 100% of the time. It’s more likely that your project will form a lesser percentage of their day-to-day duties and other commitments. Be sure to align the skills and abilities of your team with each area of your project, highlighting to funding bodies they have the skills to deliver the proposed outcomes. Funding assessors want you to evidence that you can efficiently achieve your project.
Don’t go it alone: collaboration partners can add value to your project and instil further confidence in the success of your objectives. Consortiums benefit from a wide range of skills, experiences, and practical tools that you may not contain in-house, but outside of the proposed project would not be required otherwise. Collaboration partners can provide new or different perspectives on your innovation and can potentially offer more time, expert resources (skills and literature) and expensive, specialist equipment and facilities otherwise reasonably unobtainable.
The key to finding the right partner for your project is:
Project costs and finances will be under scrutiny and you will be required to evidence that your project provides suitable value for money.
Project costs need to align with the size and complexity of your project. You can be marked down for costs considered too low as well as too high. Revise the competition/funding body’s cost categories and establish benchmark budgets to work towards. Be realistic and prepared to evidence and quantify your costs in terms of value for money.
Different funds have different requirements and thresholds for funding amounts available and the proportion of costs that can be claimed (known as the ‘intervention rate’). For example, Innovate UK typically defines its funding levels based on both project maturity (Feasibility Study, Industrial Research or Experimental Development) and organisation size (micro/small, medium and large). The amount of grant funding you can claim will depend on how you fit into these criteria.
As it is the defined project that is funded, applicants need to work out the specific project costs required, rather than, for example, all costs that the organisation is incurring. A good example is staff salaries (through PAYE). A project’s technical lead may be costing the company £60k p/a, but may only spend half their time on the ring-fenced project. Their cost to the project would be £30k. However, a technician or developer may be involved in the project for 80% of their time, as it is the main project they are currently engaging with.
You must be careful that the anticipated costs are as realistic as possible as they will define your project; you will be required to fully justify all costs to funding bodies. If successful, you will have to provide a spend profile that takes the overarching costs and defines them by quarter and month.
Top tips for costs:
The keystone to commercialisation is the protection of your idea. Clearly define how project outputs will be protected, ensuring that intellectual property (IP) will not be lost, and therefore potential commercial returns greatly reduced or even eliminated entirely.
Top tips for IP:
Once you’ve been notified of your project’s success, made it through the due diligence stage, and begun project activities, you will need to remain compliant with the funder’s reporting requirements.
During the project, there are set reporting intervals with required documentation and milestones such as:
Accurate reporting is critical to the cash flow of a grant-funded project. Seeking the advice of a professional grant project manager will free up your time and allow you to focus on delivering the project outcomes stated in your successful application.
Top tips for project management:
Granted Consultancy has operated in the non-dilutive funding space for over 11 years. Over this time, we have seen R&D grant funding scoring thresholds continue to increase and the quality of projects dramatically advance.
To step up to the competition you need to have a robust project plan for your innovation – use our blog to guide you!