Why use an advisor when bidding for grants?

As an SME involved in R&D, grants offer the opportunity to extend the research budget, to develop  competitive technology and bring new products to market more quickly.  Why would you pay for advice if you can read the calls for bids and their associated notes, and you are perfectly capable of answering the questions asked in the bid submission forms?

Companies regularly use advisors to support, develop and draft bids for R&D grants.  Firstly, most recognise that they only bid for grants occasionally, whereas advisors typically are involved in multiple bids to specific grant programmes each year, so they have more exposure and more experience.  This is critical, as most grant programmes are very competitive and the ‘edge’ helps.  A grant advisor will be able to give you an idea of your chances of success, which can be useful in deciding on the cost/benefit of making an application at all.

The words in the grant call and the information about the programme may seem obvious to you: say, “they want 5th generation communications technology to support the transport sector” and you are a cutting edge communications company, so this is for you … ?  The question might be, “what does the grant provider want”? An advisor will know that the driver for the call was, e.g., customs and security issues, so that the real interest of the grant provider will be projects supporting the monitoring of vehicle integrity and security as they cross borders, in real time, which may or may not be what you want to do.

The guidance notes provided with grant programmes are not always easy to understand.  One past grant programme offered grants for R&D, but excluded commercial activity.  The same programme insisted that projects must be driven by user needs.  Advisors would be aware that the programme regarded market research as “commercial activity” and would reject bids conducting market research.  Interesting, here the advice was to “conduct an assessment of end user needs”, which was a positive fillip to the applications.

Advisors also build up a picture of what ‘good bids’ look like, including where to put the project emphasis, how to present the project team, how to construct the budget, etc.  Many grant schemes have an idea of what they expect to see in a bid, frequently communicated in notes to assessors.  An advisor will know what features an assessor will look for in a bid, which might be how they expect applicants to present project risks; it could be how the bid addresses the issues associated with sub-contractors.

Grant programmes change over time. Many of us have heard comments such as “we won a BRITE-EURAM grant, and it was all very ‘blue skies’”, which misses the point that the equivalent programme today is very market oriented.  Most advisors have worked with grant programmes for many years; they have tracked the changes and can tell you where the programmes sit now.  The advisor can make the case to board members, who were involved in grant bids 15 years ago, that the landscape has changed, the opportunities have changed and the best route to exploiting grant programmes has changed.

A grant advisor can support the identification of the best opportunities for your project, they can help in optimizing the chance of success by ensuring that the content of the bid fits the grant organisation expectations, and they can address some of the internal prejudices in organisations about the grant system, which are often historic.

MSC R&D can help you through the entire grant funding process – contact us on 0114 230 8401.