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Specialist Series: Understanding And Articulating Your Financials And Funding Requirements

By Lesley Watts

When describing the financial support necessary to develop a technology, the first step is to be clear about the scope of the work you are addressing, as no single source of funding will be able to support all of the associated R&D costs.  Anyone who is assessing your project plan will want to see that you are aware of this and that you have a rough idea as to how you will continue to move forward once you have fully expended the source of support. To do this, you should begin by letting your reviewers know the aspect of the technology’s development that will be supported with the funds you are requesting.

Once the project plan and methods are sketched out and the associated costs can be reasonably estimated, describe the specific objectives that will be supported by these costs. Reviewers want to see the work associated with milestones and appropriate decision points. They will want to look at funds that could be re-directed should a change in the project’s course become necessary as a consequence of results obtained earlier in the project plan. For example, if a specific milestone is expected to take one-third of the project period to complete, it may be appropriate to associate one-third of the relevant personnel costs with that milestone. Similarly, if a milestone includes work that is to be conducted by an outside entity, associate the payment of that vendor with that milestone.

Be realistic when describing the financial requirements of the current project plan. Reviewers will want to see that the funds requested are sufficient to support the work described in the application. If you propose a scope of work that requires resources that greatly exceed your request, a reviewer may believe you are naïve, unaware of what is needed, and that you will not be able to complete the work you have described.

If you are planning to leverage additional resources to complete the described project plan, be sure to provide evidence of their availability. Evidence can be in the form of a letter of support from the facilities that will be contributing the additional resources, or it can be a clear-cut statement in the budget justification.  However, be sure to check with your institution or company before offering additional resources to supplement what you are requesting to support the proposed project plan. The commitment of additional resources beyond what is required by the sponsor may incur significant reporting requirements, and it may be discouraged.

Finally, describe how the project plan and the support requested will fit into the overall picture and development plan for the technology. The reviewers will want to know that you are aware of the follow-on work that will be needed; they will want to know that the work will not simply end when the award ends. At a high level, describe the next steps for technology development and provide a rough estimate of the costs associated with achieving the next inflection points described in the overall development plan, and be as realistic as possible.