Features of an “ideal” grant partner
By: Marek Pitura
Grant partner – for over the last few months that was one of the main topics in Future Processing Healthcare (Graylight Imaging now) connected with applications to the National Centre for Research and Development for funding of the project we had prepared. We had to consider several issues while preparing this project and I would like to share my reflections on one of them. It was a matter of participation in the project of potential grant partner, i.e., companies or scientific institutions with which we could form a consortium or be subcontractors of dedicated work in the project. And on this occasion we tried to determine the attributes that would characterize our potential partner or subcontractor. They turned out to be quite easy to define, but at the same time I realized how little attention is paid to them.
In my experience, when we are invited to participate in funding applications, whether at national or European level, we are very rarely asked about the things we have defined as crucial for such a partner.
In this post, I would like to say a few words on this subject and encourage more detailed verification of potential partners for grant applications in this respect.
What do we expect from the grant partner / subcontractor in the application?
As a result of our analysis, we have distinguished 3 main features that our potential partner or subcontractor should have. We checked them in the following order:
The ability to carry out the tasks entrusted in the project is obvious and does not require much comment.
We had to be sure that the entity with which we decide to cooperate is able to complete the work entrusted to it reliably and on time. It should demonstrate its experience and completed projects in a given technological area and have a staff capable of conducting research and development work. At this stage, it did not matter to us whether these abilities result from commercial projects or subsidized R&D work. The most important was the answer to the questions: will they do what they are committed to and how do we assess the risk that they will fail?
Increasing the value of the project application – here we touch on the nuts and bolts of preparing applications for grants.
From the experience we have gathered so far, we know that having the ability to carry out the planned research and development work is one thing, but to convince experts evaluating applications is another. In the process of application analysis what is verified is not only its innovativeness and compliance with the guidelines of the competition in which it was submitted, but also the ability of the contractor to implement it effectively. Contrary to appearances, this is not a trivial matter and it is not uncommon that applications are assessed too low for the application to be successful. However, we should not only focus on the threats and risks associated with this criterion. Having staff with proven experience and competence and a history of successfully completed previous grants will be an additional advantage, which will increase the value of the application in the eyes of the experts and help in obtaining a positive assessment.
By documented experience we mean the participation of specific individuals from the partner’s staff in other research and development projects, including those financed by the institution to which we want to apply with our application. The second key element is the competence to perform R&D work. In this case, the criterion evaluated by the experts is having scientific achievements. Such elements as scientific degrees and publications from a given technological area are important. They are valuable because the author of publications in leading journals can hardly be accused of ignorance of the subject and technological challenges from this area included in the application.
Meeting each of these criteria brings with it another, probably the most important value. Such a grant partner will not only “look good” in the application but will also make his substantive and practical contribution to its preparation and subsequent implementation. At the preparation stage, he should be able to prepare a description of his own planned activities, which will be both correct in terms of content and, thanks to his experience in submitting previous applications, meet the formal requirements of a given competition. We knew that a good grant partner or sub-contractor will help to supplement our competence and significantly increase the chances of success in obtaining funding..
Experience of the grant partner’s organization in the implementation of grant applications – the third element that we focused on was the experience of the potential partner’s or subcontractor’s organization in the implementation of similar types of grants.
This was important for us from a purely practical point of view. We assumed that such a grant partner would not have any problems with preparing all the formalities necessary to start the project and prepare the documentation required to report on the progress of work and financial issues. Mundane matters, but extremely important from the practical point of view.
Checking these elements is also very easy. We have simply asked. And I would like to encourage people who are looking for partners or subcontractors to apply for various types of grants to do exactly that – to ask questions. For a bolder and more planned verification, based on specific points that are important in your planned competition. Nowadays, the exceptions are situations when we are asked about these elements, and in my opinion, it is worthwhile, spending 15 minutes during the conversation, to learn a little more about the people and the entity with whom we are planning to cooperate for several years within the framework of the grant.
See the previous post by Marek Pitura: Mean Opinion Score as a method for the validation of R&D project results in imaging diagnostics