Grant funding can be a great way of getting a project off the ground. But before you leap into the application process, there are a few key things you need to know. techSPARK has teamed up with Granted, the consultancy that helps organisations secure non-dilutive funding for innovation projects, to share integral information with you.

If you’re unfamiliar, grant funding is typically a sum of money given by one entity (e.g. company, foundation, or government) to an individual or company to facilitate a goal or boost performance. This comes in two types: Capital grants and Research & Development grants.

Non-dilutive funding (meaning you retain equity within your business) can significantly accelerate project time frames and markedly reduce a product or service’s time to market, beating the competition and establishing first-to-market status.

R&D grant funding involves a competitive and often time-consuming application process. To ensure a successful approach you need to have a defined project before commencing the bid writing process. By doing this, you’ll ensure the right grant fit for your project whilst keeping a consistent narrative and alignment to your wider company strategy, catching the attention of the assessors and improving the quality of the proposition.

The grant writing team at Granted has put together these four key focus areas to help you develop a grant fundable project, think of it as a pre-bid sanity check!

Outcomes and objectives

For your project to be considered an investable, credible business opportunity worthy of funding, your outcomes and objectives need to be well-defined. The first thing an assessor will be looking to establish is whether there is a clear and researched business opportunity, and a consistent link between the problem you are looking to solve and the solution you are proposing to address.

Be sure to also include up-to-date market research to outline your strategy for market entry: What does the current market look like? Is it growing? How fast? What trends affect it? What is the competition? What are the barriers to entry?

“Collaborating with partners can also add value to your project and instil further confidence in the success of your objectives”

Next, consider how you will generate commercial returns from your project. Include realistic outputs and how you’ll execute them, including your sales/service model and growth plans. If you cannot explain how your project will be commercialised you could be marked down.

Agile or Waterfall

Your project objectives and management approach should determine how the project will be executed. Typically, two types of project management methodology are used, Agile and/or Waterfall. Agile is an incremental, iterative approach that separates a project into sprints. Waterfall is a linear and sequential approach that divides a project into phases.

Whatever you choose, you must be confident that you can present your desired approach, linked to overall project objectives, in the format the funder requires.

Team and resources

A common misconception when it comes to the project team and resourcing is that all company staff need to be working on the project 100% of the time. You should instead align the skills and abilities of your team members with each area of your project to deliver the proposed outcomes. Assessors want to see that you are able to achieve the goals you’ve set out in an efficient manner.

Collaborating with partners can also add value to your project and instil further confidence in the success of your objectives. You can benefit from a wide range of skills, experiences, and practical tools that further enhance your project outcomes. Partners can provide a new or different perspective to your product, process, or solution and potentially offer more time to consider the problem and published literature.

Costs

Project costs and finances will be under scrutiny by assessors. They will seek evidence that your project can provide suitable value for money. For this, work from the ground up. How much funding do you need to achieve the MVP of your ambitious idea, rather than “how do we create a project that is at the maximum threshold of the funding allowed.”

Your costs need to align with the size and complexity of your project. You can be marked down for costs considered too low as well as too high.

Different funds have different requirements and thresholds for funding amounts available and the proportion of costs that can be claimed. Check the eligibility and nuanced rules around costs (e.g. amortisation rules) to avoid falling foul of ineligible costs.

As it is the defined project that is funded you need to work out the specific project costs required, rather than, for example, all costs that the organisation is incurring. A good example is staff salaries (through PAYE). A technical lead on the project may be costing the company £60k p/a but only spend half their time on the specific grant project. Their cost to the project would be £30k. However, a technician or developer may be involved in the project for 80% of their time, as it is the main project they are engaging with.

You must be careful that the anticipated costs are as realistic as possible as they will define your project. If successful, you will have to provide a spend profile that takes the overarching costs and defines them by quarter and month.

Top tips for IP:

  • Seek guidance from IP specialists
  • Explore all forms of IP protection, not just patents
  • Consider what project outputs would need to be protected to facilitate commercial exploitation
  • Review existing registered IP to ensure no infringements

Project Management

Once you’ve been notified of your project’s success, made it through the due diligence stage, and begun project activities, you will need to remain compliant with the funders reporting requirements.

During the project, there are set reporting intervals with required documentation and milestones such as:

  • Progress Reporting: Provision of an updated document set, GANTT chart, and progress report relating to the activities of the previous quarter
  • Financial Reporting: Identification of incurred project costs to date and updated forecasts for the remainder of the project
  • Independent Accountant’s Report (IAR): Submission of an IAR to confirm project expenditure, aligning with costs in the financial report (an IAR is typically not required for every reporting period)
  • Project Change Request: Should you require a change in the project cost profile or the scope of work, a formal Project Change Request needs to be completed. This needs to be supported by a suitably updated document set.

Accurate reporting is critical to the cash flow of a grant-funded project. Seeking the advice of a professional grant project manager will free up your time, and allow you to focus on delivering the project outcomes stated in your successful application.

How can Granted help you secure grant funding?

Granted Consultancy has operated in the non-dilutive funding space for over 10 years. Over this time period, they have seen R&D grant funding scoring thresholds continue to increase and the quality of projects dramatically advance. To step up to the competition you need to have a robust project plan of your own creation. 

As grant writing professionals this is something the team can advise on. They can take your project plan and make it a grant fundable application and manage the reporting of your successfully grant-funded project. However, they do not have to deliver the project defined in your application, so the initial plan needs to come from you.