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The Role of Design in Grant Funding Applications – An Applied Perspective

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) Director Steve Welch brought his experience to bear on the grant application process, both as a software engineer and innovation manager.
For Welch, a key principle in any R&D project, whether drafting a funding application or developing a new technology product, is to ensure that the requirements and specifications are properly in place. A common error is for the system design to be too close to delivery, and a “left shift” is needed, in which the objectives and innovation challenges are framed at the beginning and scoped in as much detail in possible.
While funding programmes such as SMART can be very competitive, the truth is that a relatively small number of applications are of high quality. If you take the time to prepare a well-considered application then your chances of success are much higher. In particular, this means:
  • Having a strong opening that grabs the assessor’s attention, describes a tangible problem and provides a sense of the potential market value – without making wild projections!
  • Being clear in articulating the wider economic impacts – how other companies in your supply chain or sector will be able to potentially benefit.
  • Taking a measured approach to risk, demonstrating you have the systems and team to manage and ameliorate technical risks, but at the same time being upfront about the innovative and experimental nature of what you are trying to achieve.
  • Making the case for requiring public support and that for all of its potential, the project still needs funding in order to reduce risk, make the project affordable and stimulate private investment at a later stage. 
This article was written by KTN Lead Specialist – Creative, Digital, Design Tom Campbell
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