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You can enormously improve your chances of winning a grant by reading and understanding the terms set forth by your target funding agency. Remember that program managers and committee members read hundreds of cases for support, so you have very little time to grab their attention.

Your proposal, according to Microsoft Research, will be read by 1 or 2 field experts, and the rest of the committee members are non-experts. So your proposal should be clearly written to be well understood.

Make sure that the first 2 pages act as a stand-alone summary of the entire proposal.Present your whole case in the Executive Summary: what you want to do, why it's important, why you will succeed, how much it will cost, and so on.

Most funding agencies apply a set of criteria for the evaluation of grant proposals.It is important to address these criteria in your proposal. A proposal which fails to meet them will be rejected regardless of the quality of its source. There is a danger of discriminating unfairly in favor of well-known applicants.

The main criteria for evaluating a proposal are:

1. Does the proposal address a well-formulated problem?

2. Is it a research problem, or is it just a routine application of known techniques?

3. Is it an important problem, whose solution will have useful effects?

4. Is special funding necessary to solve the problem, or to solve it quickly enough, or could it be solved using the normal resources of a well-found laboratory?

5. Do the proposers have a good idea on which to base their work? The proposal must explain the idea in sufficient detail to convince the reader that the idea has some substance, and should explain why there is reason to believe that it is indeed a good idea. It is absolutely not enough merely to identify a wish-list of desirable goals (a very common fault). There must be significant technical substance to the proposal.

6. Does the proposal explain clearly what work will be done? Does it explain what results are expected and how they will be evaluated? How would it be possible to judge whether the work was successful?

7. Is there evidence that the proposers know about the work that others have done on the problem? This evidence may take the form of a short review as well as representative references.

8. Do the proponents have a good track record, both of doing good research and of publishing it? A representative selection of relevant publications by the proposers should be cited. Absence of a track record is clearly not a disqualifying characteristic, especially in the case of young researchers, but a consistent failure to publish raises question marks.

The Secondary criteria for evaluation are:

1. A grant applicant with little existing funding may deserve to be placed ahead of a well- funded one. On the other hand, existing funding provides evidence of a good track record.

2. There is merit in funding a proposal to keep a strong research team together; but it is also important to give priority to new researchers in the field.

3. An attempt is made to maintain a reasonable balance between different research areas, where this is possible.

4. Evidence of industrial interest in a proposal, and of its potential for future exploitation will usually count in its favor. The closer the research is to producing a product the more industrial involvement is required and this should usually include some industrial contribution to the project. The case for support should include some “route to market” plan, i.e. you should have thought about how the research will eventually become a product -- identifying an industrial partner is usually part of such a plan

5. A proposal will benefit society if it is seen to address recommendations of Technology Foresight (future studies.) It is worth looking at the relevant Foresight Panel reports and including quotes in your case for support that relate to your proposal.

6. Cost-effectiveness. Finally, the program manager tries to ensure that the budget is to be used in a cost-effective manner. Each proposal which has some chance of being funded is examined, and the program manager may lop costs off an apparently over-expensive project.Such cost reduction is likely to happen if the major costs of staff and equipment are not given clear, individual justification.

Consider the above evaluation criteria as you write your project proposal to increase your chances of getting approved.