Writing a winning grant application

5 key things to consider before you apply

Medicines Discovery Catapult

Bidding for grants and funding can be a very frustrating, tiresome and demoralising process. Hours can be wasted putting pen to paper, just so your dreams can be shattered months later after “so-called” experts and faceless bureaucrats tear your hard work apart. Of course, this is all part of the democratic process required to justify spending public money.

The truth of the matter is, there is no quick-fix or magic formulae to winning grants. However, there are certain steps you can take to ensure the funding you are bidding for is right for your organisation and that you put forward the most competitive proposal possible.

At the organisation I work for, RedKnight, we apply a 5 step self-assessment process on behalf of every client before we begin writing any funding application.

This includes:

  1. Idea – Before even considering funding options, it is imperative that you have a clear understanding of exactly what it is you want to do. Clearly identify your aims and objectives and the tasks you need to undertake to achieve these.
  2. Funding – Once you have a clear project idea, you can then review the funding opportunities available and determine whether your project fits within the funding call scope. There is no substitute for sitting down and reading, but most importantly understanding, what the funding call is looking to fund. Remember, square pegs do not fit round holes!
  3. Capacity – Do you have the in-house skills to achieve what you are setting out to do? And be honest with yourself. If not, you may have to consider working in collaboration.
  4. Track-record – Are you able to convince the evaluators that you can deliver the project? As with point 3, if not, you may want to consider teaming up with a more experienced partner who is used to running projects.
  5. Partners – If you’ve answered ‘No’ to points 3 or 4, you will likely need the support of a project partner, but even if you do have the capacity and track-record, some funding programmes insist on collaboration. It is essential that you understand the eligibility criteria of the call you are applying to, and what types of organisations are eligible.

We greatly encourage organisations to consider the above points before they waste valuable time and money writing funding applications for grants which they aren’t quite ready for.

It is also important to remember that even excellent proposals aren’t always successful. RedKnight has supported many applications which have passed the threshold but haven’t received the funding. The critical point is to learn from the feedback and to persevere.

About the author

Photo of Dayne Hodgson

Dayne Hodgson is an expert in small business funding programmes, including Horizon 2020, Innovate UK and European Structural and Investment Funding (ESIF), which he has also managed and administrated. With a First-Class Honours Degree in management studies from Cardiff Metropolitan University, he started his professional career working within the University’s Research and Enterprise Services, developing expertise in both National and International funding streams.

In 2014, Dayne joined the University of Wales Trinity St David as European Strategy Development Officer, supporting the successful development of the £13m ESF work-based learning project, ‘GWLAD’ and two Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership projects worth more than €500k. In September 2015, Dayne co-founded RedKnight and since then they have supported clients in accessing over £4.7m of grant funding for Research, Development & Innovation purposes.

This article is from a series contributed by the UK drug discovery community. For more information read our disclaimer.