More often than not, funding bodies request that lead applicants collaborate with other organisations and that they aren’t a sole applicant. Irrespective of whether a collaborative R&D approach is an eligibility criterion, high-quality collaboration, be it with industry and/or academia, adds credibility to a grant application. Even if collaboration isn’t essential (for example a 6-18 month Innovate UK Smart project), it can add value, strengthen your application, and help you to standout from competing applicants.
Identifying and selecting the most appropriate partner(s) can be one of the most difficult elements in any collaboration. It’s important to take a step back and ask yourself what you want to gain from the collaboration; it needs to be much more than a box ticking exercise to satisfy a grant requirement. What expertise, complementary skills or specialist equipment/facilities will improve your research project? What qualities will your ideal partner possess? Do you have a common goal?
An academic collaboration can be a good starting point. Some SMEs are reticent about approaching higher education and pitching their ideas. Don’t let this hold you back, universities are keen to collaborate with companies of all sizes and for their staff to work on real world (rather than blue sky) challenges. An academic partner can provide access to state of the art equipment and access to a vast talent pool. However, to keep the balance in favour of industry, academic involvement in Innovate UK projects is normally capped at 30% of the total budget; the bulk of the work should be undertaken by the lead applicant/industrial partners.
Staying on the topic of industrial partners, strong consortia often feature other members of the supply/value chain. This can be a great way of confirming market pull (as opposed to technology push), end user buys in or potential routes to market.
It’s a given that collaborations can be powerful; however they aren’t something that can be rushed at the 11thhour under the shadow of a looming grant submission deadline. Academic partners need to prepare their own application form (known as a JeS form) for submission to their research council. This will need internal academic approval and signoff; factor this into your timescales.
If you opt for industrial partners, be mindful that they will also need to match fund their involvement, so it’s important that they have a vested interest in the project. Project partners need to share the risks and benefits. The project should be aligned to their business plan and as part of the application you’ll need to demonstrate how they will benefit from the project and the exploitation of the technology (for example access to new markets).
Whether you’re working with industry, academia, or a combination of the two, a robust collaboration agreement should confirm the ownership and licensing of intellectual property rights of existing know-how, as well as any outputs arising from the project. All partners are required to sign a collaboration agreement as part of the grant acceptance phase; however we recommend that you explore these issues at the outset.
In summary, there’s a lot to be gained from collaboration. To find out more about how Inventya can support you with your grant application or other services that may help towards your success contact us here