Exploring Alternative Routes to Research Funding
Researchers suffer from an issue similar to that faced by many innovators in industry: the so-called ‘Valley of Death’ – a limbo state where you need data to get funding, but you need funding to get data. While a somewhat simplistic portrayal, this is a very real roadblock many face. This is where exploring alternative routes to funding can help. We discuss some such avenues in this article.
Look out for calls for multidisciplinary projects (and consider engaging in multidisciplinary research)
Bearing in mind current trends in research is a good way to expand the pool of potential funders you would usually tap into. For example, you may be used to applying for public research funding, but there may currently not be any calls for your particular niche. This can be because overall, research is beginning to lean toward more multidisciplinary approaches. (Learn more about multidisciplinary research here: Skills needed for Multidisciplinary Research)
It follows therefore that many funding bodies are incentivising multidisciplinarity by publishing calls for research projects that specifically stipulate this condition. So, consider thinking outside the box and using your contacts to come up with something that could tick those boxes. Who knows, together with your academic circle, you might come up with something altogether new and groundbreaking.
Industry is sometimes considered a ‘dirty’ word in academia, but its reputation has cleaned up in the last few years. Academics are beginning to come around to the idea of collaborating with industry, seeing that innovation starts in academia but is most commonly fulfilled in industry. The divide between the two is blurring, and it’s a great time for researchers to approach companies who might be interested in funding proof-of-concept work for a future collaborative grant application.
Here are some suggestions for exploring this route:
- Find a company you think would be a good fit for your research, based on their technology and business focus.
- Look through their website, where they would usually advertise ways to work with them. Alternatively, you may be able to reach some of these larger companies via an innovation portal (for example, GSK) or a specified direct contact.
This may appear an unconventional means of funding your research, particularly in STEM disciplines, owing to the major cost involved with STEM research, but don’t discount it. There are examples of successfully crowdfunded research projects which have led to larger grants. Platforms such as Experiment help researchers raise funds for vital experiments, while providing donors with an insight into how the research unfolds.
However, do keep in mind the following:
- The public nature of this type of funding can make publishing slightly more difficult, as results are immediately accessible and being beaten to publication (getting scooped) is a real possibility.
- Platforms tend to charge a percentage fee should you receive funding, so be aware of these and cost for them.
Getting funded can be daunting, and bearing in mind that success rates for funding applications are usually in the single-digit percent range, it is easy to be disheartened. This is why it is vital to make sure every avenue is explored to make sure your research can keep going, and to make sure that a simple funding issue doesn’t stall your research journey and potential discoveries.
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