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Posted on: 10/04/2024

Advice for The FLF Development Network’s Plus Funds Initiative

 

The FLF Development Network is dedicated to fostering innovation and collaboration among research leaders. Central to this mission is the Plus Funds initiative, which provides flexible funding for projects aligning with the network’s goals. Let’s explore how this initiative works and learn from valuable feedback shared by reviewers.

The Plus Funds scheme was always part of the original design of the Development Network, designed to offer flexible funds up to 25K that can be used for organising activities that address the aims and objectives of the Network.

At this stage, the sorts of activities that were in scope were: [i] small collaborative research/innovation projects to support interdisciplinary proposals; and [ii] running seminars, lectures, expert working groups, sandpits, skills training sessions.

 

Process

The application process is designed to be collaborative and supportive. We encourage applicants to discuss their project idea with one of our managers before applying. Once an application is submitted the Plus Funds Review Group, meets to look at submissions. The group is made up of a mixture of the Advisory Board, FLFs and Network specialists who are asked to declare conflicts of interest — so there is still an appropriate level of rigour to the process even if an applicant gets lots of help in putting the proposal together.

The Project Manager then checks that all elements of the application have been submitted, and that proposal meets the eligibility criteria. Applications are redacted, so that the Review Group does not see personally identifying details. This is important to note when describing the team you have put together, i.e. focus on skills & experience more than institution or position.

EDI is strongly weighted by the review group. It’s really important that this is not an afterthought — we can usually tell!

Following review, there are three possible outcomes: [1] award; [2] revise and resubmit; and [3] reject. We try hard to avoid outcome 3 and offer supportive feedback.

In addition to standard plus funds awards of up to 25K we are launching a new scheme: Creative Flexible fund. This smaller fund of awards up to £10k to ‘Design Your Own’ training/development. We aim to turn around applications to this fund more quickly, and again managers can support applications and provide guidance.

 

 

Top tips from PF reviewers

 

  1. Proposals must address the aims and objectives of the Network, so it’s important to centre the benefits to/impact on the wider constituency of Fellows — often, this feels bolted on. The panel will be considering why the PF scheme is the appropriate fund for your idea (rather than another source of funds)?
  2. One way to approach this: how does your unique positioning as FLFs inform the conception, design, and/or impact of what you’re proposing?
  3. Find a fellow. The most effective proposals tend to be collaborative, reaching across cohorts, disciplines, and regions. Also: sense-check the demand/interest among the wider FLF community — this is very useful. Some applications tend to presume that other Fellows will always already be interested.
  4. Let’s be honest: the application form does have some slightly confusing elements, e.g. the difference between Project Description and Project Implementation. My advice: the former is more about whether your proposed intervention is suitable to meeting your objectives (the right format); the latter is whether the aims themselves are well justified & whether it is clear how they will be measured.
  5. Salaries. Many proposals include costings for Research Assistants. It’s important that these costs are justified and some context is given (e.g. is the RA already employed on someone’s project; would this be buyout for their time?). As reviewers, we often struggle to understand/rationalise salary costs.
  6. EDI. There is so much to this, but common pitfalls include [1] who is potentially excluded? We get a surprising number of applications that include invitation-only events. Consideration of barriers to participation, e.g. resulting from travel, need for visas, etc. And [2] how is participation supported? Budgeting for support in line with (e.g.) our Family Friendly Policy works well. Charters/commitments/policies like Principled Spaces.
  7. Risk assessment. This tends to score lower, and panels do look closely at the perceived risks.
  8. Timeframe. Is it realistic & feasible, e.g. recruitment into support roles? Does it fit with access to the Network?
  9. Don’t assume that online events are completely free of charge.
  10. ‘Off-ramp’ to events. Is simply getting people together enough, or will you need to do something by way of follow-up to ensure uptake/usage?
  11. Related point: legacy, e.g. producing a web resource – how will this be maintained when the PF project has come to an end?

 

Find our more about Plus Funds, view successful applications and access the relevant documents. 

Read case studies on completed Plus Funds Projects, Res-Well and Next Generation Research Podcast.

 

To get in touch with a manager for support on your application visit out 1-1 guidance offer.

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