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Lessons learned at EARMA 2017: about research managers and funding strategy

May 04 2017

Patrick de Boer and Andree Schram from the ttopstart academy were delighted to participate in last week’s EARMA (European Association of Research Managers and Administrators) congress organised in La Valetta, Malta. Here, we will share our four most important lessons learned.

No more

It was obvious that researchers form no exception to the rule that time is always of the essence. This results in research managers receiving project proposals too little, too late. A way to circumvent this is to plan better, start earlier, and have a funding strategy in place. This should guide you through the next 3-5 years and would need to be based on your strengths and weaknesses. In our well attended presentation on Tuesday we presented the ttopstart Funding Model Canvas, a tool that can support you to develop competitive funding strategies. We have seen that universities and groups with a solid strategy indeed score better both in national and international funding schemes.

Research AND Innovation.

Although this is nothing new, it was clear that the voice for innovation is still growing louder. For research managers, this means that they have to motivate their researchers to put the focus more on the innovative character of their research and base their funding strategy on this. This strategy should involve all relevant stakeholders that can contribute to the innovation process (i.e. SMEs, larger companies, NGOs, etc.). Therefore, researchers should endeavour on collaborations outside of academia (also a key aspect on the ttopstart Funding Model Canvas). EARMA made clear that this is still a big barrier for academic researchers. Research managers seek ways to support and convince them in finding these collaborations and adjust their strategies to focus on innovation.

FP9 is closer than you think.

While we are still waiting for the last work programme of H2020 (FP8) to be finalised, many thoughts and discussions were already at the next framework. At the ttopstart academy we are thrilled by this as it creates awareness amongst researchers and that can help them both to strategise (see lesson 1). Moreover, the time to influence the shaping of FP9 (i.e. topics and programmes) is now. It is advised though to lobby targeted for specific topics, as this more likely to be picked up by the EC.

Yes, success rates are lower.

It is inevitable, success rates have decreased since previous frameworks. EARMA made clear that research managers are ready to deal with that and want to equip themselves and their researchers better. Similar to our best practices this means that amongst others researchers should be coached to not submit proposals to calls in which they do not fit (i.e. a consortium type of projects submitted to ERC). Or proposals that focus on challenges that can be solved at the national level (in which case EU collaboration is not needed).

We learned plenty at EARMA and were pleased with the opportunity to get familiar with many European research managers (grant officers).

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