Grant Consultancy for Scientists and Scientific Institutions
For successful grant applications, you need to blend internal (your motivation, your overall research topic and questions) – and external factors (funder’s intention and evaluation criteria). Our support, based on our combined experience as scientists and grant reviewers on hundreds of grant proposals, helps you integrate both sides into a cohesive, consistent and, above all, convincing application. We do so by analysing the proposed research at various stages of proposal preparation, before and during the writing process.
At the initial stages, we analyze the strategic project orientation and clarity of the scientific idea. Among other aspects, we provide feedback on central aspects such as the compatibility of the aims & objectives with the funding program, overall risk positioning and scope of the proposed research. We may suggest major changes to the work plan. The focus is on the broader concepts, allowing you to mold the project after reviewing our suggestions.
You will get a commented version of your proposal or proposal idea, together with a summary of main discussion points. We are also available for follow-up calls to clarify any doubts or questions.
For proposals at advanced draft stage, we work with you to make sure that the proposed research is presented in a persuasive and easy-to-follow way, targeted towards the specific audience. We analyse and make specific suggestions with respect to the logical inner structure of the proposal, to convey consistent, accurate, and clear messages in all sections. We may also comment on the visual appearance of the proposal and provide tips for the optimal representation of your achievements and CV.
You will get a commented and edited version of your draft with specific recommendations for changes. We are also available for follow-up calls to clarify any remaining doubts or questions.
Examples from our Daily Practice
Consultancy for ERC Grant Applications
The single PI (Starting, StG, Consolidator, CoG Advanced, AdG) grants of the European Research Council (ERC) are among Europe’s most prestigious research grants, open to applicants with an exceptional achievement track record and from all scientific disciplines. Grantees receive generous support to perform ground-breaking research projects for up to five years.
Over the years, we have developed an in-depth consultancy program for ERC applicants. We review individual proposals with the aim to help focus and structure the proposals to meet the high expectations of the panel members as well as external evaluators, keeping in mind the special aims and focus of the ERC. Among others, we analyse the following aspects:
Does the proposed research address a clearly identified scientific challenge?
Is the envisioned solution to the challenge original, novel, “non-standard”, and contains at least some explicit high-risk parts?
Are the objectives connected to the overall aim? Are they ambitious, and with clear starting and end points?
To what extent is the research methodology appropriate to reach the objectives?
How coherent and effective are the work plan and risk mitigation measures in order to achieve the project objectives?
To what extent is the project likely to create scientific impact, by opening new research avenues?
Does the proposal convincingly argue why the research is timely and should be financed at this moment?
Are the candidates’ CV and track-record presented in a compelling way?
Does the proposal follow a convincing logical structure and is the language simple and persuasive?
Horizon Europe: MSCA-DN Proposal Preparation
MSCA-Doctoral Networks (DNs) have the objective of promoting international, inter-sectoral and multi/inter-disciplinary collaboration in doctoral-level training in Europe. They aim to train creative, entrepreneurial, innovative and resilient doctoral candidates, able to face current and future challenges and to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for economic and social benefit.
We review both content and structure of the draft in the Excellence, Impact, and Implementation sections, at different stages of the proposal preparation process. Among others, we assess:
The composition of the consortium, in light of the required intersectorial, interdisciplinary, international and innovative aspects of the research and training programme
The scientific need and description of the research program, how it addresses important societal challenges and is aligned with European policies
The innovative aspects of the training program, keeping mind that any DN should primarily ensure that the doctoral candidates receive top-level training, in both academic and transferable skills
The impact of the program on the individual, organizational and European level
The expected synergies between the different doctoral projects
The presentation of the project in the implementation section, such as network management organisation and recruitment procedure
The importance of transversal aspects, such as gender, diversity, environment and Green Deal
Support for Applications to National Funding Agencies
National funding keeps being fundamental for most research groups or even institutions. We have ample experience from our work for clients in Germany, Spain, Norway, Belgium and other European countries. Depending on the scope and aims of the funding program, we will enter into an in-depth analysis of your proposal, giving feedback and making suggestions on aspects such as:
The adherence of the research program and the profile of the applicant(s) with respect to the call
The consortium composition and complementarity between participants
A clear definition of the motivation and addressed scientific and/or societal challenge
A convincing overall aim and the specific research objectives, which need to be in line with the scope of the funding call
Impact description for the scientific disciplines and beyond, as intended by the funder
The coherence of implementation of the project with respect to the proposed scientific approach
Work plan, feasibility, risk positioning, as well as the presentation of the team
Training for scientists
ERC Preparatory Webinars – with Stewe Bekk
In two consecutive sessions, we share our experience from having worked on more than one hundred ERC applications to date, to help participants decide whether to apply, and get a head-start when preparing an application for these very competitive funding sources. Both sessions offer plenty of opportunities for applicants to ask questions related to the ERC call and preparation. The webinars have been attended by hundreds of participants from scientific institutions all over Europe.
In the first session, we explain the focus, scope and application procedure of the ERC calls. We also discuss what the sole evaluation criterion “Scientific Excellence” actually means, in terms of project characteristics and applicant profile
The second session focuses on how to prepare a competitive proposal, sharing hands-on tips and best practices, drawn from having worked on over a hundred ERC applications. We also discuss common issues that often lead to rejection.
ERC Interview Training – with Stewe Bekk
The key to a successful interview at stage two of the ERC evaluation process is transmitting the proposed research in a compelling and convincing way in a very short time frame. Most researchers struggle with adapting the narrative to fit the audience (panel members), often focusing too much on technical details rather than “zooming out” and providing a broader context. We help applicants make the most of their opportunity and prepare a strategy for how to impress the reviewers, while convincingly answering their questions. We offer personalized interview preparation training with the aim to sharpen the transmitted message, develop a clear storyline and give the researcher the opportunity to rehearse extensively.
In two consecutive individual personalized training sessions, we provide feedback on aspects such as (non-exhaustive list):
Presentation content & structure: scope, focus, key messages
Delivery: verbal and non-verbal communication, pace, confidence, audience engagement
Presentation: slide design, visual narrative, graphical profile
General Grant Preparation Workshop “The Road to Competitive Funding”
– with Gavin Lucas
This participatory course is a practical introduction into the process of grant preparation. We analyse the different steps of proposal development and work on aspects that are essential in any grant application. Participants will work on their own project idea and share knowledge gained through their own applications. We will:
Practice the fundamentals of how to develop the scientific idea and a logical internal structure
Learn about funding opportunities and how to identify relevant ones
Analyse the funder’s intention and the scope of the call
Discuss challenges when preparing key sections, such as Impact or Risk & Contingencies
Learn the use of tools for efficient writing
Share examples and insights from the experiences of the participants
Graphic Design and Scientific Illustration
A clean and easy-to-follow visual information is crucial for an effective communication strategy in grant applications and grant interviews. We support scientists in optimising the visual representation of the project and scientific content. We create figures from scratch, or edit/improve existing ones, according to the indications and available material. We can also create graphical abstract or cover designs, and communication toolkits for scientific projects. We work to:
Create an organised and appealing overall layout with a logical flow of information, guiding the eye
Present an appropriate number and sizes of figure panels
Propose a consistent and efficient use of colours, font type, and font sizes