Struggling to get funding for your project? It might be time to think commercial

January 31, 2017

Struggling to get funding for your project or business?

You are not alone. Here are some steps you can take to strengthen your application and secure that vital investment.

Having worked with a number of project consortiums on a range of funding applications, we know that there are many reasons why you might be finding it tough to get some backing for your project. However, some of the most common reasons that we’ve encountered revolve around a common theme: a lack of commercial awareness demonstrated in the application.

With major funding bodies such as Innovate UK specifically looking for projects that are ‘realistic, with a clear commercial opportunity [capable of] open[ing] up or exploit[ing] a significant growth market’, being commercially-minded seems to be crucial to unlocking project funding and making your concept a reality.

So how can you demonstrate commercial awareness in your application?

1. Consult your customer

The product or service that you are delivering is, of course, paramount. But how can you deliver a successful product or service without meeting the needs of your anticipated customers? And how can you know what the needs of your customers are without consulting them? This may seem basic, but it is easy to get wrapped up in developing a product whilst forgetting to ensure that your innovation is the one that people want and need.

So, consult your customer.

By speaking to your project’s foreseen end-users and stakeholders, you can establish what the ‘wider benefit’ of your project will be. Conducting simple market research before writing your application allows you to refine your proposal and anticipate what your end-users are most interested in. Undertaking research in this way demonstrates a clear commercial outlook and shows that you will be delivering a product or service that meets proven needs.

2. Build credibility

Credibility is integral to your application.

For bonus points on this front, take your market research a step further. In addition to seeking the opinion and advice of your foreseen end-user, why not bring them on board as a consortium member or project participant?

Collaborating with those whom you envisage using your product or service is massively and mutually beneficial. The customer can put forward their needs and requirements in order for you to meet them, and you have a ready-made market for your product or service. Even letters of support can add credibility by the bucket-load.

Making headway here before sending off your application will set you apart from the crowd, and allow you to get ahead when the project begins. Even if your application is unsuccessful, you will have made some important connections for the future.

3. Be strategic

When thinking about the commercial potential of your deliverables, it is easy to slip into a ‘catch-all’ mentality. In our experience, many projects get caught out by trying to deliver too much.

The trick is to be strategic.

By refining your product or service even before you have sent off the application, you are adding clarity to your approach. Successful businesses are aware of their niche and are not trying to appeal to everything and everyone. Take this same approach to funding applications. Strategically identify which problems you intend to solve, and lay out how you intend to do so in your application. Having the support of some end-users and stakeholders will facilitate this process and prove that you are thinking long-term.

This strategic approach should be carried forward into a well-researched business plan. If you lack the skills to put this together yourself, collaborate with someone with the know-how.

This may seem like a lot of effort for something so far away, but a strategic approach is integral to the success of your application. You must prove the commercial and economic viability of your idea.

4. Return on investment

It is important to remember that like any investor, funding bodies are all about getting a return on their investment.

As such, the application process needs to prove that you are serious, intentional, and commercially aware. What does ROI look like for the investor? Keep this in mind when preparing your application.

For example, Innovate UK are specifically looking to invest in projects that will add value to the UK economy, and make the UK a world-leader in innovation. Therefore, Innovate UK will seek to fund projects that are aligned with these overall objectives.

Thinking commercially means considering what your product or service will offer to (a) the individual consumer; (b) other businesses and organisations; (c) the industry you operate within; and (d) the economy. Addressing each of these points in your application proves to investors that your project will deliver a return on investment.

5. Prove it

Time to get writing!

It should be recognised that the success of funding applications depends upon a variety of factors. However, in our experience, demonstrating commercial awareness and business strategy in these ways can truly set your application apart from the crowd.

Interested? Get in touch

Huduma is always looking to collaborate on innovative projects. If you’re looking for some commercial perspective on and assistance with your project, we would love to hear from you.

Further information:

For further information and advice about applying for Innovate UK funding, check out this guide.

About Huduma

Huduma Limited has developed a commercially-driven approach to business and innovation. Having secured funding from organisations such as ESA and Innovate UK, Huduma is currently bringing this expertise to a number of projects.

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