Today, I will talk about the myths of grant application submission. Some time ago I published the first part of it – here it is – and in today’s blog I will go a bit more in depth and cover the 5 most common myths that I debunk on a daily basis when speaking to clients and prospective clients.
Myth 1. It is better to submit at the end of the fiscal year
For those who do not know, every funding program operates on an annual budget. The rationale behind this myth is that there might be some money left over at the end of the year. If the funding program budget does not allowed unused funds to be carried over to the next year, there might an opportunity to achieve an easy passing mark and get your application accepted. It is believed that, under normal circumstances the program would give money to only the very best proposals (as typically happens), but in this case proposals that are just good enough would be funded as well (proposals that are still good but might have been turned down otherwise due to the high competition). To answer this, I will say – yes, this is a possibility and no, this is not a guaranteed occurrence. In fact, I personally do not know if it is a good strategy to submit at the end of the fiscal year. I have seen companies submitting a very strong proposal at the end of the year and fail, simply because there was no more money left in the budget. I have also seen very weak applications (and companies) submitting at the end of the year and being successful. It all comes down to a bit of luck, I would say. Think about it this way, do you know for sure that submitting at the end of the year will ensure the proposal’s success? What if your application is rushed through and your proposal simply gets lost in the millions of other proposals? Besides, under growing public scrutiny, it is becoming increasingly hard for weak proposals to get funded.
So, when it is better to submit the proposal? The answer is simple – when you feel you are ready for it.
Myth 2. Freshly issued programs are easier to apply for
A freshly issued funding program will tend to look for ways to quickly justify its existence and its use of public money in the first couple of months. If the program does not fund awesome companies, then was there a need for this funding program?
As the program evolves, it starts to become more and more specific, aiming for a particular type of company – perfectly aligned with the program’s funding goals. In a sense, it might be easier to benefit from a newly announced program. But on the other side of the coin, newly developed programs tend to have a large wave of first applicants, subsiding in the subsequent rounds. Many of these first applicant companies are unprepared and are aiming for poor luck, hoping to pass despite not being quite eligible or having a poorly written proposal. Your application will be somewhere among these weak applications and chances are equal your proposal will stand out from them or be lost among them. Your choice.
Do I think freshly issued programs are easier to apply to? Yes, but only if you have a high quality proposal.
Myth 3. If you resubmit, you most likely will pass
Not really. (Also, read my previous post on what to do when your proposal is denied.)If your proposal was ranked low the first time around, resubmitting will only reinforce it and red-flag your proposal. Keep in mind that some of the funding programs, for example Smart Start Seed Funding and Alberta Voucher Program, allow you to resubmit only once. It is very unwise to hastily resubmit in this case, if you are unprepared and simply hoping for pure luck, as you will likely waste your single additional chance to submit. On the other hand, some funding programs, such as European Commission’s Horizon 2020 SME Instrument allow you to resubmit as many times as possible. But, again, if your proposal was very weak in the first place, resubmitting will not take you far. It will only take your time, add frustration, and make you convinced that the grant submission is a hopeless process (it is not).
Myth 4. If it is a great idea, and nobody came up with it before, then the grant will be awarded right away
First of all, most ideas have been taken by now. Seriously, nowadays coming up with a new idea is close to impossible. If not through my company, then through my networking, I come across companies that are pursuing the same clients with same business ideas regularly. And yet, each time I get excited talking to them, because for me it is not about a new unique idea, for the most part, it is about the people – the team, and implementation. And this is what your application should be about – who will do it and how you will do it. But this is not all: no matter how perfect your business plan is, no matter how excited the investors you talked to get about your business, your highest level of business validation should come from your customers.
If you can show that there is someone who is willing to purchase your product or service because of the value your business provides, then you are on the right path!
Myth 5. If I only explain the technology well enough, the business aspect of it will follow and this will be enough to pass the mark
This myth overlaps with the one above and is commonly observed among technology oriented companies. Of course, the technology is very important. This is the core piece of your business proposition. Trust me, I am with you on that one 100%. But grants are not given out just because your technology is amazing. At the end of the day, who needs grant proposals, when funding could have been issued based on patents created? This is already your very best description of the technology, and most of you would have at least one patent application. The reason this will never happen is because, the technology itself is only one part of success. Imagine a great vehicle with only one wheel, how far will it take you? Not far. You need all four wheels in place plus a couple of other pieces, but we will skip this for now, to keep it short and clear.
So, technology – yes, is very important, but so is the team, the implementation, and how committed you are to your goals. Blend these together, and you will have a nice story to tell and to present in your proposal, placed with the top funding prospects, guaranteed!
ConnexFund specializes in grants and funding for innovative companies and start-ups with focus on technology and manufacturing. Many Canadian businesses are aware that there is some free money available for them. But not so many know where to find it, how to access it and how to prepare a grant application that is successful. And this is exactly what ConnexFund does!