The Grants and Innovation Office is up and running

“Applications for research funding have become increasingly complex,” she says. “So it’s essential that our researchers get back-up and support during the application process.” 

Aiming towards more research 

On 1 November, the University of Borås gained a combined support function for research and innovation. The process of building up administrative and strategic support, including expert advice for researchers, administrators and research and innovation management, is now beginning. The university’s ambition is to strengthen research. The aim is to achieve a 60/40 split between education and research. This ambitious aim will require more external research funding. As the funding landscape evolves and tougher demands are placed on educational institutions in terms of coordinating and prioritising applications and programmes, additional support will be needed. This is where GIO comes in.

Annika’s background is as a researcher in clinical genetics at the Sahlgrenska Academy, and her thesis deals with hereditary factors for breast cancer. She has also worked as a research adviser for a similar support function at the University of Gothenburg. Support functions such as GIO can be found at most Swedish educational institutions today.

“This could involve helping with research applications and managing contracts. But we can also act as a sounding board for researchers, providing support with prioritising and identifying the best strategic structure for their research. We can work with individual researchers or research teams to find the most suitable financial backers and advertisements.”

Making use of research

As innovation advice is now organised together with research support, GIO will also be able to provide support in connection with converting research and knowledge assets into actual benefits, thereby making use of research findings.

“This could involve commercialisation, but there are also many other ways in which innovation can benefit society and the individual. Many financial backers now require researchers to demonstrate that the project proposed in their application has relevance and impact, and this is where an innovation adviser can be particularly useful.”

Keeping an eye on Horizon 2020

The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation is also known as Horizon 2020. This extensive research and innovation programme includes EUR 80 billion of funding, but participating in the programme can be a complicated process.

“The sheer scale of the programme makes it hard for individual researchers to keep abreast of the funding being advertised. Ensuring compliance with the rules can also be tricky. But we can help to ensure that everything is in order, and that all the essential criteria and rules are met. After all, it’s never fun spending a long time working on an application only to find out that it hasn’t even been considered just because a few formalities have been overlooked.”

GIO is growing

GIO currently consists of three positions. In addition to Annika, the office also includes innovation adviser Dahlin and Jonas Rimbäck, who is currently on leave. Recruitment is under way for a research advisor and a contracts advisor.

“We hope to fill these positions as early as possible in the New Year,” continues Annika.

GIO acts as a support function for researchers at the three academies, organised within Administrative Support. The office works closely alongside the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and the Director of Development, and is part of the Vice-Chancellor’s Innovation Council and Research Council.

“We also hope to be able to continue developing GIO soon in order to provide even better support for researchers and administrators once the project has started.”

Up and running already

Since assuming the role of Research Funding Support Coordinator in September last year, Annika has been in contact with the majority of the university’s senior researchers and believes that most of them are aware that she is available as a resource. Some researchers have already benefited from support in research issues. Annika believes that it is always worth running research applications past other people to get new perspectives on wording and prioritisations.

“Even if you don’t contact GIO, let your colleagues read through your applications and ask them for comments and suggestions for improvements.”

She maintains that applications in which the researcher’s passion and commitment come across clearly tend to be the most successful.

“You need to arouse the reviewer’s curiosity early on and get them to want to keep reading. In other words, you need to be able to sell your idea. But the most important success factor when it comes to funding will always be the actual research and the quality of the new knowledge, method or technique you want to create. Writing applications can really try your patience. Sometimes you need to rewrite an application several times before getting it right.” 

Foto: Suss Wilén

Text: Erik Holmlund