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Innovation in grant proposals: what does it mean?

March 30 2016

Innovation; a key element in both national and European grant proposals. However, just stating that your project is innovative and will generate impact is not sufficient to pass the critical judgement of the reviewer. The expert panel is well equipped to assess whether your idea and proposed work truly surpass the current state of the art. It is important to remember that exaggeration or overstating potential implications will do more bad than good.

An analysis of all PubMed abstracts over the last four decades published in the Christmas 2015 special of the BMJ shows that positive words are being increasingly used between 1974 and 2014. The increase in positive language in abstracts of scientific papers is likely associated with the positive outcome bias that currently dominates scientific literature. The authors postulate that scientists may assume that results and their implications have to be exaggerated and overstated in order to get published.

Similar to the scientific publication battle, the subsidy landscape is growing increasingly competitive. Only the most innovative proposals with the highest impact (i.e. ‘return on investment’) are granted. This might mean that you feel forced to use increasingly positive words in your application to convince reviewers of the fundability of your project. Before you start with your next subsidy application, take a moment to reflect what terms like ‘innovative’, ‘innovation’ and ‘impact’ truly mean.

 “Innovation is the successful exploitation of new creations, which when used produce tangible benefits, satisfying needs and wants. Invention is not innovation: exploitation of the invention equals innovation.”

Quote Dr. Eugene Sweeney (see presentation “Impact and Innovation in H2020" by the European IPR Helpdesk)

Getting the best result out of your project will include paying attention to innovation, intellectual property and exploitation. Think about whether your project results can stimulate further innovations or can be used beyond the project objectives. Perhaps not only for you, but also for other organisations in Europe. This will maximise the impact generated from your endeavour. Impact presents the extent of the benefits derived from the innovation, which can be financial, societal, environmental, technical, and/or educational.

At ttopstart we specialise in highlighting impact and innovation in subsidy applications. Our consultants do not only understand science and technology, but also have good knowledge of life sciences, medical technology and healthcare markets and the requirements for commercialisation of research results. Are you interested in learning how we can complement your scientific knowledge with a strategic plan for implementation to really enable innovation from your research results? Feel free to contact us!

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Karlijn Bastiaansen, PhD