Innovation, creativity and significance in Ideas Grants

ideas grant (1)

The NHMRC Ideas Grant, what goes where and how?


The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grants, first launched in 2019, with the aim to “support innovative research projects addressing a specific question”.

The applications for NHMRC Ideas Grants are peer-reviewed across four categories; Research Quality (35%), Innovation and Creativity (25%), Significance (20%) and Capability (20%). 

The proposal is made up of a Research Proposal, an Innovation and Creativity Statement, a Significance Statement and a Capability Statement.

In supporting researchers with their applications, in 2019 and this year, we have witnessed confusion about what to write in each section and how each section differs. As the application period is currently open for the 2020 round, we thought it would be helpful to provide some clarity. The suggestions given here are based on our understanding of the guidelines, which are, to be honest, difficult to interpret. After working with many applicants to help prepare their applications for submission, we have developed a simple way to approach each of the sections. Consider the How, What and Why of your proposal. WHAT you plan to do, HOW it is innovative, and WHY it is important more broadly.


The Research Quality section of your proposal outlines WHAT you plan to do. This is your research process, or in other words, your traditional research proposal. This is where you describe your idea, provide context as to your thinking and articulate your research plan. Consider the following points and questions in answering this section:

  1. Outline your research aims and describe what you have planned to achieve them; what is your hypothesis or rationale?
  2. Detail your study design, what will be your approach to the research?
    1. Methods, timelines details of data collection and analysis
  3. What are the technical and scientific risks associated with your proposed research?


When writing about the Innovation and Creativity of your research, you need to focus on HOW your approach is NEW and DIFFERENT.

Consider these elements in structuring your response to this section: 

  1. Clearly state, at the very beginning of this section, what is NEW or DIFFERENT about your proposed research. 
    • Is it something totally new?
    • Are you adopting an approach from another discipline and applying it to a new area or in a new way?
    • Are you adapting an existing approach in a new way?

Then you will go on to explain HOW your research is new and/or different.

  1. How has research in this area, or looking at a specific problem, been done to date? 
  2. Outline how this previous approach has been limited and detail these limitations.
  3. Describe how your approach and the proposed project is different from the status quo and how it is likely to, or will overcome the limitations.
  4. Finish the section with a sentence of two on how your approach will be beneficial (this is to link this section with the next section – Significance Statement). 


The easiest way to describe the approach to the Significance section is to consider this through the lens of WHY your work is important.  In considering this and writing the section, we suggest you consider:

  1. An initial short problem statement highlighting the state of the issue, very briefly. You do this to provide the context for what you are going to write in this section.
  2. Why is your work important in advancing the research or health area? For the technologically minded amongst you, you can think of this as writing an IF statement: IF this, THEN that, where “that” is the significance.
  3. Why your work will provide significant outcomes in science, knowledge, practice or policy?
  4. The deliverables/outputs from your research and why those deliverables will help create your claimed significance.

When speaking with the numerous researchers, we have worked with to help polish and refine their applications, time and time again, they say they feel like they are repeating themselves over and over again. We hope that by providing this guidance and suggesting you tailor your approach to each section by thinking about the WHAT, HOW and WHY of your research, you will avoid repetition and be able to clearly articulate the important innovation and significance of your proposed research. 

We wish all applicants the very best with their applications.

If you would like to work with us to refine your application you can find out more here.

Authors: Tamika Heiden and Cathie Withyman