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Where to start?

So, you want a project.

Calendar / January

After a while searching for research funds, one may struggle to identify new calls of interests aside from the usual suspects (national calls, or very well-known calls in the field) or to consistently broaden the own research portfolio in order to respond to new calls. Here some ideas:

Start by undertaking an honest analysis of your full research portfolio, including not only the areas of interest and the funded projects, but also patents, self-developed techniques, group skills and know-how, and structural resources available. Work also in the study of the field questions that remain unsolved, considering all affected parties not only your questions of interest. Try using tools to help you (research canvas, SWOT) in this analysis. And importantly, work with your team and trusted others (colleagues, administration, managers) in open brainstorming sessions in which no ideas are banned, to help you respond.

Search the funding landscape with an open mind: go beyond what is obviously related to your work, and ask yourself: Could I respond to this question? Do I know someone I could work with to solve this? Do I have skills that could help others work on this question? Include all calls, even those that a priori seem impossible to win. Because with others maybe you can respond efficiently and effectively to highly competitive calls with success.

Prioritize the list of calls, considering: a) deadlines (how feasible it is to prepare a solid proposal with time available?); b) eligibility criteria (can I fulfil all requirements? Consider not only your research group requirements but also institutional, legal, funding and consortium requirements (if any).c) how well suited is your idea (you may not always need a 100% match); d) how strong is your network for building a competent proposal (and if required a strong consortium) with all and only what you need to respond.

Once you have identified a priority call to which you have the time, requirements, consortium and capabilities to respond, and before you get to action, plan!

  • Think of the resources you have at hand. Go beyond your group boundaries and consider all infrastructure in your institution
  • Think of what you still need and don’t have and analyse if you can find them in your network or if you need to go somewhere new.
  • Think of what additional actions done during the proposal stage can strengthen your candidacy
  • Liaise with funding agency actors or experienced researches who can provide valuable advice both for the proposal stage and the project management phase.
  • Be true to yourself with regards the time you can devote to the task and build a calendar with feasible milestones (avoid over- or under-estimations).

And then… Go for it! 😉

What if you don’t succeed? Well, then try to gain as much relevant information as possible from the evaluation outcome. Beyond disappointment, try to learn the outmost of the experience to identify areas of improvement for the proposal, aspects in which you can strengthen your network, your strong points and your weak points, and study if the work done can be of use for a resubmission or even for building a new project proposal for a different call.