From grants to angel investors: Unlock the investment potential of your research
Whether it's an innovative new medicine, diagnostic assay or a novel specialty material, translating fundamental research into a marketable product is an expensive process. While there is a diverse range of financing options available today to support the translational pipeline, from basic R&D to applied research and ultimately to market, the funding landscape remains highly competitive. This is true for academic labs, start-up companies and even research leaders seeking internal investment within large R&D organizations.
Will your next research project be funded by the crowd?
Federal and government organizations are often a first port of call for those looking to get their research projects off the ground. Awarding highly competitive research grants and scholarships based on outstanding proposals, governmental funding institutions are a particularly important source of financing for academic and basic stage research.
Due to the competitive nature of government research grants (approximately 90% are refused), there has been an increase in science philanthropy, especially in the U.S. Organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation provide much needed financial backing for the early stages of research, where investment risk is greater.
While grants from governments and not-for-profit organizations remain key sources of funding for basic research, innovative options are emerging. For example, crowdsourcing is becoming an increasingly important source of R&D financing, with platforms such as Experiment and Instrumentl established in recent years. Realistically, securing large amounts of funding by this route can be challenging. However, for start-ups and individuals needing a smaller cash injection, these platforms can be incredibly valuable.
When it comes to securing funding to progress basic studies into applied research, larger investments are required to turn bright ideas into viable businesses. In the U.S., programs such as Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer have proven to be particularly useful. In Europe, initiatives such as Eurostars support international innovation projects for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Angel investors and venture capital are additional sources of funding to support the applied research stage and beyond. Often with a vested interest in the impact of research, angel investors may be more likely to fund a project that will have a profound social significance. However, they may be more averse to risk.
Venture capital, on the other hand, generally provides funding for the purpose of getting monetary return. As such, if a viable business case for your research can be made, venture capitalists can often provide business expertise along with funding to help inventors take a product to market successfully.
Three keys to securing investment
While the latest available statistics show annual global R&D spending has reached a record high of $1.7 trillion – a figure that's increasing yearly – the R&D funding landscape remains highly competitive. To maximize your chances of success in all stages of your research, proving your credibility is critical. After all, an investor is not making a bet on your technology alone; they are also putting faith in you and your ability to deliver on the promising idea. Many factors will influence your perceived credibility with investors, but here are a few of the most important requirements.
Stay up-to-date with cutting edge developments in your field
A recent study found that around 14% of grant proposals submitted to the National Institutes of Health failed because the investigator appeared to be unfamiliar with the latest advances in the field. While you may have thoroughly researched the field when you initiated your research, it can be easy to get behind on the latest developments. Also, as proposals go through multiple rewrites, and potentially rejections, the information in them can become unintentionally dated. This can quickly create a credibility gap.
With every new funding opportunity, it's vital to ensure you are still effectively communicating the novelty of your work relevant to the current state of the field. Take time to keep up with scientific and market advancements and update your communications accordingly. Furthermore, it's important to understand the research landscape into which your work fits more broadly to ensure you are considering all relevant applications, as well as any competing solutions trying to solve a similar problem.
Consider the intellectual property perspective
Ensuring the novelty of your research and avoiding areas already covered by patents is extremely important. This is especially true in the later stages of the R&D pipeline when you are looking toward commercialization. After all, novel research with the potential for monetizable intellectual property is far more likely to attract investment. Most commercial investors will complete an intellectual property assessment before agreeing to invest anyway, so having proactively considered this and being conversant in the patent landscape of your intended market will go a long way toward building credibility with potential investors.
Put yourself in your investor's shoes
When requesting funding, it's important to make sure you are in sync with your potential investor's primary objective. A charitable foundation, for example, will often prioritize the social impact of an R&D project, whereas a venture capitalist is likely more concerned with the bottom line. In either case, it's essential that your proposal focus on proving your ability to deliver the investor's desired outcome, whether that is curing a disease, easing world hunger or delivering commercial return on investment. Your ability to communicate in your potential investor's language and alignment of your objectives will immediately raise your credibility.
Getting ahead of the competition starts with reliable information
Whatever your research goals, it's absolutely essential that you know your field inside out to maximize the value of your work. Whether you're competing for government grant funding, investor backing or internal investment within a large R&D organization, you need to be able to effectively make your case with current information. The right information solution gives you an advantage when looking to secure funding and helps expedite your research project.
A global, well-curated solution like SciFindern enables you to keep up to date in your research area and understand the broader landscape impacting your field. Not only can this improve the overall quality and efficiency of research, but it also allows you to monitor trends and find opportunities that could otherwise go unnoticed. SciFindern from CAS provides access to the world's most trusted and comprehensive scientific and technical content collection, with alerting to keep you on top of the latest developments effortlessly. With its state-of-the-art search relevance capabilities, SciFindern quickly pinpoints the most valuable and relevant information, ensuring that you are always one step ahead.
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