You might have a great idea, working on an awesome application for the market, or a scientist working on a research with big commercial potential. Like most entrepreneurs or inventors, you need financial support to progress and make your project a reality. Grants and subsidies are a valuable option, especially for high-risk/high-reward projects, when investors are still reluctant to give their money.
However, writing a convincing project proposal is not an easy task. Many people struggle with conveying their ideas, and generally do not enjoy the writing process (you might be one the lucky few who do though). To top it up, getting funding from grants is very competitive. For example, if you ever applied to the European Innovation Council Accelerator grant, you know that your chance of success is between 1-4%. Other grants, like Eurostars and MIT feasibility have higher chances of around 30%.
There are many ways to help make your proposal stronger, and in this article, we focus on using sources to back up your arguments. You probably know your area very well, but if you write a piece without backing your argument, your proposal might not appear credible to the evaluator. You should always start by having a clear narrative of what you want to tell. Once you have that narrative, use sources and data to show the reliability of your story. Sometimes data is difficult to use, so we provide a list of where to look for sources and some ways of using them:
- Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a great way to find scientific articles (and patents), especially if don’t have access to paid databases. The nice thing about Google Scholar is that it will give you an option to access the full article on the top right (see print-screen below), if it’s available somewhere online.
But how to choose the right sources from the mountain of results? Besides being of relevance to your case, you could check a number of things such as: date of publication (in most cases it is better to use newer publications), the journal where it was published (some journals are more reputable and therefore trustworthy than others. You could check a journal’s reputation on sites such as: Eigenfactor and SJR), and look at who are the experts behind it, or in other words who are the authors. If they are known in their field you should feel more confident to trust their work. Finally, the number of citations can say something about how popular the article is in the academic community. In general, it is better to choose fewer but better academic sources than using many of lower quality.
- Market data
Data on your market is not always easy to find. Often companies would ask for a few thousands euros to gain access to a complete market research report. However, there are often summaries of such reports that are enough for the purpose of showing the market size and trends. You could look at Research and Markets, BusinessWire or simple Google search and make sure the source you are using is credible (e.g., check their ‘about us’ section).
- Statistical data-bases and reports from trusted organization
Another way to show trends, the size of the problem you are dealing with, comparisons between population segmentations or areas, and so on is to look at the official statistical data site of a country. For the Netherlands that would be CBS and for USA Census. Using statistics from recognized organization, such as the World Health Organization (e.g., for noncommunicable diseases and mental health), or expert organization (Dutch Heart Foundation) is another good approach to finding reliable data to back up your arguments.
- Surveys & shared data from companies
People rarely think about using existing surveys but they can offer a lot of quantitative as well as qualitative information about the problem you are trying to solve. For instance, if you are working on a e-health solution for home, you could get insights on how many people have used existing solutions, what worked, and what struggles they are still facing. Surveys are sometimes part of academic articles. Additionally, companies would sometimes publish their surveys on their site, for instance Eventbrite looked into the future of festivals. Another example is Uber’s movement site which shares aggregated data to help understand mobility challenges.
- Users and experts’ opinions
While these kinds of sources provide “soft data”, they do help to convey a problem, a need, or a solution. Opinions tell the qualitative side of your story. While opinions are not objective data, they are valuable for letting the reader connect to your message on a more personal level.
Information of this nature can help show why people care about the problem you are trying to solve, and that users/experts are eager to use it. If you carry your own user-experience survey/interviews, see if some people are willing to be filmed and share their opinions in a short video format. Otherwise check if you can quote them and use their name and affiliation (don’t forget to always ask for consent).
- Feasibility studies
If you carried out your own feasibility study, use your findings to back up your arguments. It’s also a good way to show that you are actively doing your own research.
And importantly don’t forget to properly cite your sources and give credits to the content creators!
More information? Contact Nitzan Merguei via 077-3560100 or firstname.lastname@example.org