Developing and Writing Bids

To begin the process of starting your research project, you will need to develop and write bids for competitive grants, research tenders, contract research and consultancies. The emphasis in this guide is on how to prepare your bid, whether for a government-sponsored research grant or for research projects or consultancies funded by industry.

Define Your Project Clearly

It is vital that you clearly and succinctly define the purpose of your project. This sounds simple but can be a long and complex process. You may start thinking about potential projects a year or more before the deadline for making submissions to funders.

Start preparing your answers to these questions early. Make the answers short and sharp, and keep revising them:

  • What is your hypothesis or hypotheses? Are they clear and testable?
  • What questions will you address? What are your broad goals and specific outcomes?
  • How will you achieve these outcomes? What experiments, research design and resources will you use to test your hypothesis and achieve your outcomes? Draft your expected outcomes in specific, measurable terms.

Next, prepare a timeline that includes the planning phase, a period for searching for funds, writing the proposal, and the start date. It's a good idea to start with a rough month-by-month timeline, and then update the timeline as your project evolves.

Summaries of recent grant applications, research contracts and consultancies on the JCU website may offer inspiration or guidance.

Identify and Contact Funding Sources

There are many sources of funding available for research, ranging from the major government research funding bodies: the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), other government agencies, non-government organisations, industry and charities. In some cases, income from consultancies may also be considered as research income (see HERDC ­­­Definition of Research and Development).

JCU subscribes to Research Professional which is a useful source of information on eligible funding opportunities for JCU researchers based in Australia and Singapore.

Look for a match between the goals and objectives of your project and those of the funder. Identify specific funding priorities and preferences.

If appropriate and allowed by the funder’s rules, contact the funders directly to test your proposal and seek more information. Don’t stop after sending an email, pick up the phone. Direct personal contact is often the best way to test your ideas and get more information. Find out if there is a specific project officer for your kind of project. Ask how proposals are reviewed and decisions made. Check out budgetary requirements and preferences. Are matching funds required?

Carefully Follow the Grant or Tender Guidelines

Obtain each funder’s guidelines and read them carefully. Check back with the funder if you have any questions.

Be realistic about whether you have enough time to prepare a high-quality proposal. Know the funder’s policies on late submissions.

Make sure to find out about:

  • Deadlines
  • Eligibility
  • Proposal format (including page limits and whether appendices are allowed)
  • The review timetable
  • Budgets
  • Goals and priorities
  • Award levels
  • Evaluation process and criteria
  • Who to contact
  • Any other requirements unique to specific funders

Understanding the HERDC Definition of Research and Development

Identify whether your project meets the definition of ‘research and experimental development’ used by the Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC). The university needs to record all activities that meet this definition. This data is one component in the formulae used by government to allocate research block funding to JCU.

The HERDC describes any work outside its definition of research as a ‘consultancy’. Sometimes this is misleading, as in some cases the work undertaken as a consultancy can be defined in a way that meets the HERDC definition of research.

As you set up your project, consider doing so in a way that part or all of the research required meets the HERDC definition of research and experimental development.

The HERDC Definition of Research and Development

The HERDC definition of research and experimental development, abbreviated as R&D, is consistent with the OECD definition of research and experimental development set out in the 2015 Frascati Manual. R&D is defined as:

‘creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.’

For an activity to be an R&D activity it must satisfy all five core criteria:

  1. To be aimed at new findings (novel)
  2. To be based on original, not obvious, concepts and hypotheses (creative)
  3. To be uncertain about the final outcomes (uncertain)
  4. To be planned and budgeted (systematic)
  5. To lead to results that could be possibly reproduced (transferable and/or reproducible)

Activities that meet the above definition of R&D include:

  1. Professional, technical, administrative or clerical support staff directly engaged in activities essential to the conduct of R&D
  2. The activities of HDR students enrolled at the Higher Education Provider (HEP)
  3. The development of HDR training and courses
  4. The supervision of HDR students enrolled at the HEP
  5. R&D into applications software, new programming languages and new operating systems
  6. Prototype development and testing
  7. Construction and operations of a pilot plant where the primary objective is to make further improvements
  8. Trial production where there is full-scale testing and subsequent further design and engineering
  9. Phases I to III of clinical trials

From the 2018 Higher Education Research Data Collection Specifications

JCU Connect Staff can assist researchers prepare and get endorsement for research funding applications. The JCU  Connect pages on the website are an important source of information. They include information on JCU requirements and processes for applying for grants and answers to frequently asked questions. Among the key points:

  • All external research grant and tender applications must be submitted through JCU Connect, except where electronic submission is required, when they must be lodged in hard copy with JCU Connect for endorsement.
  • A fully signed Research Funding Approval Form must be provided with each application.
  • Deadlines for submission to JCU Connect allow time for checking, revision and processing. Unless advised otherwise, deadlines are:
    • ARC and NHMRC – four weeks before the submission date
    • Other Australian granting bodies – one week before the submission date
    • Overseas granting bodies – two weeks before the submission date
  • The Provost may reject grants that have not been submitted through proper channels or do not have the required authorisations.

Once you have developed and written your bid or grant application, the next step is Writing Your Grant, Tender or Proposal.