In August 2019, I co-wrote a blog on UK Research and Innovation’s Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF) scheme; the first scheme we have run where business applicants can apply for fellowship funding.
In that blog, we explored the business opportunity offered by the scheme, and how you can use the grant funding available to develop world class innovators, build collaborations, and raise the profile of your business.
Avoiding the common pitfalls
Applications from business into the FLF scheme have increased significantly over the last two rounds as awareness of, and excitement around the scheme has grown.
In this blog, I wanted to share some learnings from the last two rounds. There are many areas where applications from business consistently score highly, but there are also areas where we repeatedly see lower scores.
I want to make sure applicants understand the common pitfalls, and more importantly how to avoid them. If you are interested in applying to the scheme, read on!
Future leaders have a unique voice
This scheme is about more than project grants; applications also need to demonstrate how the research and innovation work is built around your potential as an applicant.
As a future leader you will be developing your own unique voice and this needs to be evident in the application. Therefore, the majority of application needs to be written by the applicant, and not on their behalf.
As the applicant, you should consider why you are the person to take on this award. In reality there may by several people who could take on this work (or not!).
Highlight the unique positive impacts that will happen when you lead. Reflect on how your strongest competencies and personal leadership style will set you apart.
Future leaders broaden their horizons
The FLF scheme is a fantastic way to expand your network and look beyond collaborators who have a defined role within the project.
Think of three people you and the organisation you work for would like to have on board (my take on the dream dinner party question!).
Reach out to new organisations and people who may benefit from your work, could help it reach a new market, or who may offer a fresh perspective on its value. Then evidence your pro-activeness in the application.
Future leaders solve global problems
The application needs to include both the business strategy and direction, and your own steer.
Put the idea into a global context, and identify realistic, solution-focused answers that will have significant potential to address global problems.
Make sure you can articulate the benefits of your innovation from any competition you’re aware of.
Future leaders can present the vision…
The Future Leaders Fellowships application is deliberately free-form. The guidance provides a list of all the areas you need to address (and please make sure you address them all!), but exactly how you do this is up to you.
Instead of approaching it as a series of questions to be answered, focus on presenting a vision that ties everything together and build a narrative through your application.
Many applicants divide the space they are given up equally. You don’t need to do this if it doesn’t suit you; add more to the sections where you can really demonstrate the strengths of your application.
It’s also worth remembering you’re not strictly limited to the criteria given. If there’s something you think adds to the application and you want to include it – add it in!
And also provide the detail
Most of the applications I have seen from businesses are great at the vision. This is an extremely important part of the application to demonstrate the ambition.
But acknowledge that as well as rewards, there will be risk, and more often than not you’ll need to include some contingency planning.
Make sure there are really clear deliverables for the first two years, and that robust plans and detailed work packages are in place to achieve these deliverables. These need to back up your vision and evidence it’s realistic.
If any early projects, studies, or market research has been done that back up your idea, mention it. Build confidence in your ability to deliver from the very start.
Interesting in applying, or finding out more?
The next round of the scheme is round 5, and will be open for applications from Thursday 26 March.
For more information and dates please go to the Future Leaders Fellowship page on the UK Research and Innovation website which has information to read before applying along with a contact email address if you find that you still have questions once you have read the guidance documents.
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation.