In our long experience preparing proposals for the EIC Accelerator, as well as its predecessors and other H2020 projects, we at Strata have had the opportunity to work with many kinds of customers in a great variety of situations and circumstances. In every single case, the question, “what does this customer need from us?”, has put us on the track to obtain the insights for the best fit of people, resources and competencies for the purpose of that specific project and customer.
The first approach in providing the best service for the customer and the project usually stands on the point of complementing competencies, on the basis of, “What competencies does our customer miss to reach its goals in the project? And we will provide them.”
The proposal/grant writer
This approach may lead us to a basic scope such as what we call the “Proposal Writer Competencies” which can be resumed as the following:
- Knowledge and understanding about the call and what the call promoter is looking for, i.e., targeted proponents, project characteristics, eligibility criteria, evaluation criteria, deadlines, documentation and formal information to provide, promoter’s portal and tools…
- Knowledge and understanding about the application form structure and the information each of its specific points should contain.
- Knowledgeable on doing desk research of any kind and topic.
- Proficient in writing, especially in English, with full knowledge of academic papers writing rules and protocols.
- Proficient in the use of business software tools: text processors , spreadsheets and presentation tools.
Professionals with these competencies can for sure write excellent proposals, responding to what actually the customers are needing. They know what can be stated and not, even without having deep knowledge about the technology or the business they are writing about. With experience, they have acquired a unique outstanding capability of putting any statement and information against the balance of logic, risk, convenience and value for the proposal. These competencies include also the capability of adding useful and valuable information to the proposals, previously contrasted and validated with the customer who is the main source of information, data, and intelligence of the project.
The Innovation or Business Consultant
But often we find that customers require additional complementary competencies, which cover not only the development of the proposal, but also how to drive the project itself, and this brings in what we call the “Innovation Consultant Competencies”. In other words, the innovation management competencies.
Within time, acquired experience and learning from many mistakes on our way, we have understood that conducting innovation project strategies up to TRL9 stands on six (6) main innovation tracks intimately interrelated with each other, which are:
- Transforming the problem into an innovative technological solution.
- Building an organization that grows in capacity and capabilities with the project.
- Taking the innovation to the market.
- Establishing a sustainable business model that provides value to customers.
- Assuring the financial resources we need at each step of the project to face the next feasible challenge.
- Managing and protecting the knowledge developed so that the value remains within the project.
Managing these six (6) tracks actually entails a high number of aspects and activities within an innovation project that require full attention from the project management side and accomodate the structure of the logical model with which a proposal has to be approached. A clear and open dialogue between client and business consultant on the development of these tracks is essential to identify the project’s goals, establish the road map and envision the impact that characterises a winning proposal. The results show that this is not only positive for the proposal, but projects that go through this process win in maturity and soundness.
Great teams with complementary skills are the key to success
Our experience tells us that customers most often hire writers, while what they are actually needing and demanding are business consultant competencies, which is what we most often end up delivering. The reason behind is an interesting intrinsic particularity of professional services provisioning, where customers pay for specific competencies, resources (time and means) and a work to be done, but they actually receive talent in the same pack, and this is very good news. The bad news is that to obtain value from talent it is necessary putting it to work, and this requires customers’ resources and ability to untap also the knowledge and attitudes within either the writing or consulting talent, put at their disposal to stress at maximum the competencies, which at the end will make the difference generating the best proposal.
The preparation of a proposal is a creative process, and creativity is only possible when talent is put at work, and enhanced when it works together with other talent. Competencies are important, but when it comes to creativity, teams are even more. In this context, it is essential establishing an inclusive cooperation set-up where all the participants, without divisions or barriers regarding competency backgrounds, or internal or external collaborators. This will make possible an authentic dialogue between all the participants, sharing each one’s mental models, knowledge, concepts and ideas with the others that will finally be transferred to the proposal. May it be a writer or a business consultant, it’s talent! Let’s put it to work in our team.