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How to write a successful grant funding application

Oct 02, 2020
During this period of economic uncertainty, it's important for businesses to get all supports available to them. Barrie Dowsett tells us the best way to write a successful grant-funding application.

Financial support and incentives for businesses in the Republic of Ireland are substantial and varied. With coronavirus wreaking economic havoc across the country, research and development (R&D) grants are proving to be a lifeline for many Irish businesses looking to innovate.

Now, more than ever, the Irish government is keen to support R&D due to its positive impact on economic growth. Some grants are offered specifically by the Irish government, while others are wider EU grants.

For many Irish businesses, this process will be entirely new and for those pursuing it, the question they will be asking is: how do I produce a successful grant funding application?

What makes a good grant application?

A high-quality grant application should clearly describe the R&D project and what benefits it will bring. 

It should discuss the project’s resulting products, processes, or services and how it will bring about a significant return on investment (ROI). An in-depth understanding of the target markets should also be evidenced, including potentially competing products and your strategies for commercialisation.

Second, the application should explain why the business is more likely than its competitors to succeed with this innovation. It should describe why the proposed product, process, or service is radically new and how it will make an impact on both the business and the economy.

Factors to consider even before beginning a funding application

Before you begin a funding application, I strongly recommend considering the following:

  • Has the right type of grant funding been chosen to support the project/wider business? Some examples of previous EU funded projects may be helpful here.
  • Is there time and the resources within the company to make a successful application?
  • Is match funding available?
  • Are the business plan and projections watertight and would they hold up under scrutiny?
  • Points to cover when writing an R&D grant application

There are certain practical elements that are critical for consideration and inclusion when putting a successful R&D grant application together. Applicants should ask themselves:

  • Is my idea unique, or does it at least have a unique edge over any competition?
  • Have I given a logical summary of the key points?
  • Have I included a strong and measurable plan for the implementation of my R&D project?
  • Have I sourced the right people for my R&D project, or do I at least know where to find them?
  • Have I included a strong and measurable plan for post-project commercialisation?
  • Have I made it clear that I’m willing to put my own cash towards the project, and if so, how much?
  • Does my business have access to the operational and technical equipment it needs?

These are all vital pieces of information that need to be present in an application to give it any decent chance of success. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t try to go it alone. There are several R&D grant specialists that are available to offer expert advice.

Be aware of the different types of grant funding available

There are several avenues that Irish businesses can go down regarding grant funding for R&D projects. Briefly, they include:

Enterprise Ireland grant funding

Enterprise Ireland’s RD&I fund supports Irish businesses in creating new products, processes or services, or appreciably improving existing ones. The focus is on companies with high export potential and whose market share is growing, ultimately creating high-worth jobs. Enterprise Ireland has also put together its guidelines for making a claim which is worth reading through. Further details are also available on the Enterprise Ireland website.

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is a European programme that offers large scale grant funding over seven years (2014 to the end of 2020). Its aim is to keep Europe ahead of the game in world-class scientific investment, remove barriers to innovation, and encourage the public and private sectors to innovate collaboratively. You can find out more on the Horizon 2020 website (after this year, Horizon 2020 will be replaced by Horizon Europe).

EUREKA Eurostars

EUREKA Eurostars is a European programme that gives innovative SMEs the chance to work together with partners across Europe on innovative projects. A very popular and generous funding scheme, more information can be found on the EUREKA Eurostars website.

Other noteworthy EU funds and programs

There are many other funding options besides these that are well worth considering too. They include:

  • The EIC pilot programme – specifically for SMEs with dynamic, breakthrough ideas.
  • The Connecting Europe Facility – supporting the development of sustainable, high performing and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks across the energy, digital services and transport sector.
  • COST – which offers research funding for cross-border European networks that involve five or more countries.
  • The LIFE program – designed to provide funding for large-scale climate change, sustainability, and environmental projects.
  • Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund – for collaborative enterprise-driven partnerships that will develop, deploy and commercialise disruptive technologies to transform business.

With the backdrop of COVID-19 economic uncertainty, now is an excellent time for innovative Irish businesses to put their plans in action via an R&D grant. By getting the application right and answering all the above points, companies could potentially be many thousands of euros better off – as long as all the key elements are included and professional advice is taken where needed.

As a final side note, be sure to also check out for a full list of funding schemes by industry.

Barrie Dowsett is CEO and owner of Myriad Associates.