Large Funding Bids: Preparation and Planning

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Key issue – building your team

Gathering the right people to work with you on the project is vital. This will not only spark creative ideas that construct the content of the project, but will also allow you to share the burden of the administrative tasks. It is important to choose people with whom you can work successfully but also use the make up of your team strategically.

Here are three aspects of your team to consider:

Interdisciplinary –

Many funding bodies now require a project to have a genuinely interdisciplinary focus. This is often difficult to achieve because of the different skills required and approaches to research of the various disciplines. But, while not easy, by bringing together a cross-departmental team, you might find that an interdisciplinary angle to your research presents itself.

Collaboration –

Working with scholars from other universities always looks attractive to funding providers. Although this can mean that you might have more paperwork to complete because each university will want to ‘sign off’ on the project, it makes your bid more viable and so is worth the extra effort.

External groups –

It is not enough to bring together academics from different universities and different disciplines. Now you also need to solicit the involvement of other groups external to the Higher Education system such as museums, schools, community groups or public policy bodies. These groups might be able to contribute expertise, resources and financial aid, and the key funding bodies will look on your application more favourably.

Once you have gathered your team, you will have to create convenient ways of working in order to move the project forward. This is not always easy. Here are some top tips to help you to develop your project.

  • You will need one or two key people to drive the project forward. Many scholars are happy to contribute ideas but in order to get the bid planned and written, you many need to be prepared to step forward and take the lead.
  • Some colleagues prefer working face to face, others over the phone, still others via email. Try to establish an efficient way of working with all your team right from the start.  
  • Have a defined time scale for submitting your grant application even if you are applying to a scheme with an open call with no deadline. Otherwise you will find that months and even years drift past in which nothing concrete is achieved.
  • Allow plenty of time for drafting and rewriting. Often the eventual submission looks nothing like the original idea.
  • Allow plenty of time for university ‘rubber stamping’ of your proposal. Most universities do not allow scholars to submit large funding bids without first going through an internal vetting process. This might take weeks or months. Contact your university’s research team as early as possible in the process so that you know what will be required of you.
  • Don’t give up! It’s easy to lose focus when preparing a big funding bid, especially if you are distracted by other projects, teaching, marking or conference papers. And remember, even if you don’t get the money, the experience of putting together a bid and collaborating with others is a valuable one.
  • If you are refused money the first time, don’t throw away the idea. Build on it and develop it further, and then resubmit it in the future.

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