Impact and implementation pathways in the (MBIE) Smart Ideas proposals
Taking a concept from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Smart Ideas proposal and moulding it into a full application is not an easy task. The full proposal requires the addition of details of research implementation and impact, which can be quite confusing if you are not aware of the terminology and steps you can take.
The full proposal requires the addition of high-level details and multiple new sections outlining the impact of the proposed project. These sections include; expansion of the benefit to New Zealand section up from 280 to 1120 words, implementation pathways (1120 words), and post-contract outcomes over 2, 5, and 10 years.
In this article, we will focus on writing two of these sections, the benefit to New Zealand and the implementation pathway. Read on, or find out how we can help you develop your sections.
Benefit to New Zealand
Typically, when I read a grant proposal, the first question I have for the researcher is – “Why is this important?” Usually, I am asking this because the proposal has not made this clear to me. When considering your benefit to New Zealand section, ask yourself why is this important then ask again and again until you are no longer talking about developing a new product or process, or finding the difference between process x and y. The question you need to answer is, how is your potential innovative discovery or solution going to make a difference? In what way will it make a difference, and how will this happen?
To simplify, think about it this way:
If I find or create X, then user group Y can do Z, which will change, create, solve (insert the problem or solution here). Think pieces of a puzzle, which part are you providing, and what is the longer-term big picture benefit of that. Reviewers are looking for both the scale of the benefit, value over and above what would occur routinely, and extent of benefit with more widespread benefits scoring higher than narrow benefits.
When writing this section, start with a strong reason for why your work is essential, set the context of the problem and then discuss how your work provides a potential solution and in what way that benefit will be realised. I strongly suggest that you align your work with a current need that is backed of strategi importance to New Zealand. Access the information from government reports or policies and cite the report or article, or even use a quote, to show that your work the link between your work and an identified current need.
With any project, there will be multiple outputs, audiences and avenues for dissemination and uptake. This section is where you provide the details and rationale for your outputs and how they lead to impact. Good news, there is a logical way to approach your pathway (See image supporting image below). You want to start with what the intended benefits are, next you decide what you intend to deliver, that is, your knowledge products. These could be physical products, a new procedure or technology, or some form of training or workshop. Importantly, you need to make sure that what you are delivering aligns with the potential benefit in the long term; this is referred to as the line of sight. In between this, there is a requirement to show a link, relationship or some type of connection to the organisation, group or other users likely to want your information, and who have the capacity to move you closer to the intended benefits. All too often, there are missing or unclear connections within the implementation pathway. Remember that magic doesn’t just happen, you have to have transparent processes and facilitators in place, and that is what you describe in this section.
Some things to consider –
- The elements within this section should align with or link to other parts of the application. For example, your benefits to New Zealand are realised by this pathway, so make sure that the pathway leads to what you have previously outlined in that section.
- Key individuals or other linkages to the next user or end-user are vital. You must demonstrate the value and roles of those critical stakeholders here. What are their roles, how are they involved, do they know what you will be delivering, when will you provide it, and what they are supposed to use it for or do with it? For example, are you wanting an organisation to share information with their stakeholders, or are your users planning to embed a new process or policy around your finding?
- When highlighting a track record in delivering impact, you can highlight similar implementation pathways that have led to demonstrable benefits. It may be that you or your team members have existing relationships with your research users.
- How will your users take up your research? This is where you link back to the planned output of your work and articulate the involvement of the user. Outline your discussions with them about the potential use, and preferences they have shown for the format of materials and information to be delivered. You need to write about that in this section. Use detailed descriptions to highlight this information rather than blanket statements of fact.
- Strength of relationships – please, don’t just say you have existing relationships, or even that you have worked with them before. There is every chance that the last time you worked with them, it wasn’t that successful, so simply stating this is not useful for a reviewer. Demonstrate your relationship through evidence of past success. Provide detail about how the relationship was formed or will be managed and the roles of the players.
- Instead of talking about overcoming barriers, you can instead state that you have considered how best to ensure a smooth transition to facilitate the uptake of your outputs through the involvement of next users in the planning and execution of your research deliverables. Focus on how your plans will facilitate successful uptake.
Finally, some general advice and guidance, read the assessment guide to understand better what the reviewers are assessing.
We hope you find this article helpful. Over the years, we have helped New Zealand researchers secure in excess of $20 million through the MBIE endeavour funding schemes. Find out how we can help you!