Securing research funding is becoming increasingly difficult with the ever-growing competition across all disciplines worldwide vying for grant approval. For instance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests nearly $42 billion in medical research every year. Eighty percent of that goes toward extramural research. That's roughly 50,000 competitive grants to 300,000+ researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions across the globe.
The NIH granted 3,413 awards to 167 of those research institutions last year. It's the largest, single source of funding for biomedical research in the world. Yet, those numbers suggest investigators have a less than seven percent chance of receiving NIH approval. Here are four tips to help scientists succeed in securing grants and other funding:
#1 Build a diversified funding portfolio:
Working to secure funds through other federal agencies like the United States Department of Defense and National Science Foundation is a smart strategy to keep a laboratory financially healthy for the long term. It is also a good idea to check opportunities at state governments, private companies, and philanthropic organizations like The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the American Heart Association dedicated to funding research to help answer the big questions and make new discoveries.
"That's going to be key. I think most researchers want to start with the NIH, but there are a lot of other organizations out there that fund research," said Envigo Scientist Jamie Naden, PhD. "If you can get in with the NIH with a few smaller grants to start off, that's a good thing because it's easier to get those larger grants in the future. But, you have to go out and get that funding wherever you can."
#2 Identify the right funding sources:
Find funding opportunities that will yield the most success in securing the money. Look for agencies and organizations that best match your research capabilities and areas of expertise. Then, review the types of grants each offers and the ones that best fit your project.
"It will behoove you to also gear your research toward what the particular source is looking to fund," explained Naden, who provided data points to help secure grant funding while doing graduate work in a research lab at the University of South Carolina. "They're going to offer grants based on areas of need."
"Right now, the number two killers in the United States are cancer and heart disease. So, there is going to be a ton of grant funding available in those two areas," Naden added. "Gear your area of research toward where the money is without changing your research altogether."
For example, if you're studying the effects of alcohol in an animal model, add cancer to your research and that puts your work on another level to help secure those funds.
"Maybe there are two different places you can place a similar grant. If you can tweak it just a little, send one to the NIH and the other to the American Cancer Society," suggested Naden. "You can submit to multiple agencies to multiple grants from each as well."#3 Never stop applying:
The grant review process takes an average of six to eight months. That includes panel reviews, denial or approval and release of funds. That's time wasted if you stop and wait for results from one funding source. For example, you could get denied or asked to resubmit with another pilot study or provide additional data based on reviewer comments. Be sure to consider those comments with an open mind. They may help you strengthen your concept and next proposal. Continuously writing grant requests to multiple sources is an efficient use of time and a way to keep your project viable.
"I've seen so many professors write one grant, submit it and then they're waiting to hear back for eight months. That's eight months of wasted time not looking for something else," explained Naden, who's been a part of Envigo's Veterinary Science Research & Support team for the last five years. "That's not the way to go about it. You have to do your due diligence and look for opportunities everywhere and apply for those grants."
Especially for new investigators, Naden said you always have to assume the grant you've just submitted is not going to get funded. "That way, you're continually working on something for the future," she added.#4 Collaborate to establish prior success:
Discussing ideas with colleagues about your study may enhance your project. Also, having strong partners to help enrich the research gives funding agencies the confidence you know how to take a high-quality, scientific approach to your hypothesis. If there is someone in the industry who is better at performing specific tasks or experiments, have them help. Then, be sure to submit the cost of that help and history of their success.
Naden said if the NIH or other agencies don't think you can do the work or aren't qualified to do the work, they won't give you money.
"We have a customer who was denied funding because she lacked the experience to breed a complicated model," Naden added. "We have provided quotes for her re-submission outlining exactly how we would do it, which hopefully, will allow her to secure that funding."
"Envigo can provide many models a customer may need because of our model generation technologies including CRISPR," Naden explained. "So, as far as model generation goes, if we don't offer it off the shelf already, we may be able to make it for you."
Envigo has also shared published papers under research uses and references for each model it's created and how they have worked.
"If you can actually show that working with a supplier is going to be valuable and they can execute the breeding better than the researcher can, show that to the reviewers," said Naden. "That just sets you up for success not only with your study, but to get the funding you need to complete it."