12.03.24 Funding Preparation

Why robots can’t win you the grant

Why robots can’t win you the grant: the human edge in proposal writing

Written by Will Granger, Director at Granted

In the increasingly competitive world of innovation grant funding, every word counts.

With growing awareness and traction of AI assistants, you might feel the temptation to hand over your next proposal entirely to your AI Chatbot of choice. But before you hit the “Generate” button, let’s stop and consider why these chatbots, while very helpful tools, shouldn’t be your go-to solution for developing your application.

The Power of Human Insight

Chatbots can create grammatically correct text in an instant, far quicker than any human. But crafting a winning application requires much more than just vocabulary. You need to have a deep understanding of your project, the nuances of your business, the unique value proposition for your stakeholders, and the specific requirements of each funding body (some of which aren’t conveniently listed).

Despite the best efforts of current technology, the ability to engage in consultative discussions, adapt to changing business objectives, and make strategic decisions based on this nuanced information is a step too far. Whereas a human consultant can help bring fresh perspectives and creative solutions to positively refine your application.

Building Trust, Not Just Text

Competing applications, particularly in highly subscribed competitions such as IUK’s SMART, can come down to a simple question – who do we trust more? While AI can mimic human language, it struggles to build a rapport with an assessor or tailor the application to align with the tone of the challenge or opportunity being targeted. This can lead to a generic proposal that doesn’t capture the attention of funders and fails to stand out.
Applying human creative thinking creates opportunities to showcase company strengths, tailoring the bid to persuasively address assessor needs and emotions, thus crucial trust can be built.

When AI Goes Astray

AI’s limitations go beyond just understanding humans. Training data, vast as it may be, can harbour biases and inaccuracies.

This can lead to:

  • ethical concerns in your application, such as unintentional plagiarism or biased language
  • additions to your project plan that may not be factual or achievable
  • inaccurate data sources and referencing
  • violations of format or compliance rules, leading to ineligibility

Arguably the biggest risk of all is that to generate a complete application, you will need to feed confidential information about your company, business strategy and technology into a chatbot, creating sizeable security and intellectual property concerns. Many organisations have put in place strict conditions for AI Chatbot use to prevent sensitive information from being shared.

Looking Beyond Short-Term Gains

While AI might seem like a time-saver, remember that the cost of a poorly written bid far outweighs the initial efficiency gains. With funding decisions often taking 2-4 months, the wait for a decision feels like an age, and to then fall short can be detrimental to your research & development planning. Subsequently resubmitting starts the waiting game again. For some niche funding calls, there may only be one round of the competition, and no opportunity to resubmit at all.

Investing in human expertise can optimise your application, applying the techniques listed above and mitigating the limitations of AI-created content, setting up the company for long-term success by not missing out on these funding opportunities.

The Winning Formula: Collaboration, Not Automation

So, are chatbots completely useless in the world of bid writing? No. Not in the slightest! They are incredibly valuable tools for research, collating and structuring thoughts, and streamlining repetitive tasks. But their best use is to augment, not replace human expertise.

The key to winning bids lies in a collaborative approach (much in the same way you would bring in expertise for the delivery of your project), where AI’s efficiency meets human judgement, creativity, and strategic thinking.

When the next funding opportunity arises, resist the urge to turn to AI Chatbots and automate everything. Instead, embrace the power of augmented human expertise and watch your proposals outperform the competition.


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