How to write a good application to fund your innovation project

Anna Ridderstad Wollberg shares some of her experiences from several years of working with both BIO-X and Swelife calls.

From specialist to generalist and beyond

Over the last five years, I have met a large number of projects in the early phase of their commercialisation road trip. Many have been in the process of applying for grants from BIO-X, Swelife or other sources. And I have begun to wonder why some succeed and others don’t. Here are some reflections.

In my mind, the most important components for success are a brilliant business idea based on a true need in combination with a competent and reliable team with a clear plan forward. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? 

Many teams have the potential to reach this state, and many are already there. One crucial aspect of your application is the need to explain these components clearly. To succeed, you must understand your audience as well as the driving forces behind their decision-making. 

In the academic world, for example, you have scientific methodology and hypothesis testing. In large life science industry companies, you present project milestones at stakeholder reviews. And in the entrepreneurial world, you will need to present business models, competition and market analyses as well as product development plans. 

This is something you will have to bear in mind when you write your application for funding your innovation project. Here are some tips from my perspective:

Language

  • Use clear language. By this I don’t mean simple language. 
  • Use short sentences and be sure to answer the questions why, how, when and who. Have only one message in each sentence.
  • Select the information you put in your application. Don’t put everything in there so that the reader has to select.

Content

  • Remember, you are not applying for a research grant. You will need to explain the scientific background and rationale, but not in the smallest detail. Inspire trust in your scientific capacity.
  • Be clear on where you are heading with the project after the funding period. What are your aims and goals?Can you describe your preferred business model? How will you make money?
  • Be realistic when it comes to time-lines, the amount of work and costs.

Final tips

  • It takes time to write a good application. Get your whole team involved early on.
  • Don’t forget the business plan. The assessors want to know if you have a good idea with potential to solve a real problem (for the patient) and to reach the market. 
  • Analyse. Will your team have the capacity to bring the idea forward (competence, funding, networks)?
  • Ask for feedback. Be humble. Let people outside your field read the application and see if they understand. Getting comments and updating always makes the application better.
  • Remember, professional help is available. Use it! You can find valuable tips on the financing organisation’s home pages (links below), really good commercial consultants are on hand to help, and Sweden has an excellent innovation support system with business incubators, innovation offices as well as other non-commercial players. Plus you have the Swelife hands-on model with regional coordinators throughout Sweden ready to help.

Further advice:

Agency for Economic and Regional Growth

Anna Ridderstad Wollberg. Ph.D., Project Manager. ”I work with BIO-X, Industrial Partnerships and Swelife. We can make a difference for researchers wanting to commercialise their ideas within life science.”

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