Always start with the call documents! All funding competitions are different. Take time to review the opportunities to make sure you are applying for the best opportunity available for your business and that you are eligible.
Funders want the best possible outcome, so it is in their interests to help every applicant submit the most accurate and well-informed proposal, but remember responses from customer support can take time, so factor this into your planning.
Your response should be individualised to make you stand out. Make sure your responses highlight what you can do and make the reviewers take notice. If you have something amazing, shout about it.
Ensure you are familiar with the relevant submission portal to avoid unnecessary delays.
Complete drafts offline. Do not type directly into the submission portals. If they crash you will lose all your hard work.
2. Study the Documentation
Read the specification carefully, then read it again. The documentation should tell you everything you need to know about how the funder wants to receive proposals. This includes the application process that will be used, how your proposal will be evaluated and scored, and how the contract will be awarded.
Double-check the eligibility. If you are not eligible, your proposal will not go out for assessment. Inventya’s bid writing team can help you assess your fit, but always check with the competition owner too!
Your proposal should address all the points outlined in the call documentation. It is your guide to preparing a winning proposal.
For Innovate UK competitions questions are equally weighted and so deserve the same attention. Treat each question independently.
Don’t be lazy and copy and paste from a previous application. There are often subtle differences and amendments from previous calls.
3. Prepare your Response.
Be realistic. Turnaround times for Innovate UK competitions can be as short as 4-6 weeks. Do you have the capacity to give the proposal the attention it needs?
Allow adequate time for writing and submitting the proposal to avoid being disqualified immediately by submitting a late or ineligible response. This is a key point which many businesses underestimate.
Use the project summary to highlight your main message. This is how assessors and experts are assigned to review proposals.
For Innovate UK competitions all questions are equally weighted and so need equal attention. Many applicants mistakenly focus on the innovation at the expense of the later questions.
No one knows your team as well as you do. Whichever funding route you choose to pursue you will always need to showcase them. So why wait?
Timescales to develop and submit innovation funding proposal are tight, so make a plan. Prepare a project plan for completing your proposal, be realistic and make sure you stick to it.
Work back from the final deadline date. Ensure you have all the documentation in order and up to date. Allow sufficient time for proofreading before submitting. Having a critical friend to review your proposal can be a great tool to highlight inconsistencies, omissions, and other potential weaknesses of your proposal before submission.
Collaborative projects come with additional time constraints. Getting agreement from all parties on the final draft, the project costs and share of available funds, not to mention securing letters of support from end-users.
Submitting a proposal often takes longer than you think. Always aim to have your response ready to submit a day or two before the deadline. Contingency is vital for professional project plans.
Finally, make sure the response is delivered on time! Do not wait until the last minute to submit your response; always send it early.
5. Promote Features and Benefits
Describe what you do, how much it costs and how long the project will take. Don’t assume assessors will know this. Facts need to be quantified wherever possible.
Discuss the customer needs and how they can be solved. Prove you have the skills, experience, and organisation to fulfil the outputs and deliverables.
Showcase what they will get from you, that they won’t get from anyone else. Remember RD&I funding is highly competitive.
How exactly will the customers benefit from your product, service, experience, and expertise? At Inventya we have supported numerous high-tech companies to develop bespoke commercialisation and exploitation plans to reduce the risk associated with the commercialisation of project results.
How will you stand head and shoulders above your competitors’ proposals?
6. Emphasis on the Impact
Focus on the detail.
Ensure your benefits are linked to the impact that they will make on the project and beyond. Remember this is the impact on the wider economy and society, not just why you want to run the project. Think bigger.
Examining the current market, relevant legislation and/or the social impact of your solution are key aspects of any RD&I proposal.
Describe how your project might create employment, develop the community, improve opportunities, or benefit local suppliers.
Don’t forget to include negative impacts too.
7. Keep it Personal.
Are you the best at what you do? If so, how can you evidence this? Reference, statistics, awards, charts, case studies and/or accreditations.
Never reply with a stock answer. It will stand out and it demonstrates laziness.
Tailor your responses to the competition. Take the time to read the questions and answer in full.
If you are not sure what a question means, ask. There is always an opportunity to ask. At Inventya we have delivered numerous RD&I projects from IUK, H2020 and are a delivery partner for the Enterprise Europe Network and Innovate UK Scale-Up for Innovation and Innovate to Succeed-programmes.
The more you know about the call, the better placed you will be to answer the questions in the best possible way.
8. Assemble a Winning Team
As part of deciding whether to bid, you will need to decide how to manage the process. Innovate UK calls have relatively short turnarounds. Get your team and collaborations agreed early on. A strong team will help put together a strong bid.
If you are a sole trader or a very small business, it may not be feasible to create a full bid team. For larger firms, there are a few questions to consider:
Who gathers the information and does the research?
Who coordinates all the material you need?
Who writes the drafts?
Who checks them?
How will the rest of your organisation’s work get done during this time?
If you are able, choose a team that you know will play to the strengths of the call specification. If you’re an SME, make sure that while taking the time to prepare a strong bid you are still able to keep up with day-to-day business activities.
If you put a team together to deal with the above issues, give details of your entire team in your response.
Emphasise your team’s strengths. Writing about yourself should be simple, but clients often undersell themselves. Our professional bid writing team can help you to write impact and showcase your track record.
9. Confident Budgeting
One of the most common mistakes made in funding applications is assuming that the cheapest bid always wins. Not only is this wrong but under-pricing your solution could harm your chances. The same is true for over-inflating costs.
Completing finances should be a task! This includes the project costs and estimations of profit and ROI. Innovate UK want to see a justification for your project costs and value for money for the UK taxpayer.
Value for money and not just price alone is needed. Just because an SME may be eligible for 70% of total project costs does not mean you should apply for the maximum.
You must properly justify how you have arrived at the total project costs and explain the benefits associated with your specific solution. Our finance and compliance team are skilled in Compliance Management, Internal Audit and Organisational Development. Regularly completing financial compliance claims for Innovate UK, H2020 and other funding bodies.
This is a professional fund-raising activity. Project budgets and profit figures need to be quantified. This means understanding your target market.
10. Complete the Bid Offline
Online applications can complicate the writing process and make it easy to introduce errors in your bids. Always work offline and then upload completed sections to the online portal as you go.
Completing your responses offline means it’s easy to divide the task. Although you can assign tasks to other users on most online platforms, it requires multiple logins.
By taking the response offline first, it adds an extra security step. Complete the form offline then upload it in sequence, giving you a chance to double-check everything.
Proofread everything before you submit it or ask a critical friend. This is a professional fundraising activity and should be treated as such. Getting an outside opinion on your draft can make a real difference. Inventya can provide support via EEN or through our professional bid writing team.
Consider the language you use, how clearly you present your ideas, and how the final project will be presented. The aim is to make it as easy as possible for the assessors to see that you have addressed the call brief.
11. The Final Edit
Keep sentences and paragraphs short and punchy. Word counts are notoriously tight so remove all unnecessary text. Typically, 400 words. Anything more gets cut off! Consider using bullet points and headings to break up the text.
Be careful if you’re cutting and pasting copy to make sure the format stays the same and nothing is lost or duplicated. Keeping drafts can be a useful tool in managing this.
Read everything again, then get a colleague to read it for meaning, typing mistakes and omissions. A fresh pair of eyes is always welcome.
Use identified appendices for supporting additional information. If you are allowed an appendix, use it! This is your opportunity to expand on the written text responses, not to duplicate information.
Impressions count, so making your proposal response look professional will help assessors easily navigate your proposal.
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