The construction of a project proposal, especially for calls with a business vision (EIC Pathfinder, Transition To Innovation and Accelerator) generally arises from an innovative idea developed by an academic institution (University, Polytechnic, Research Centers, etc.) and from the future vision of what this idea could become in a few years.
Therefore, the construction of a proposal starts from very far away, often months before the actual writing of a document. My experience with dozens of researchers and startuppers around Europe has led me more and more often to a preliminary work of technological analysis that results in the proposition of various product concepts, to be validated by interacting with various actors in the sectors concerned, obviously depending on the technology (to take the example of an innovative medical device, we will interact with doctors, patients, associations, regulatory bodies, distribution companies, etc.).
In this way, it is possible to study the problems that afflict that sector and to reason out to what extent our product “embryo” can really be of interest.
This phase is critical and often leads researchers to change the final goal of their idea. This happened, for example, in the TECSAS project where we started from a concept of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Plant that had as its target a facility utility scale and we finally arrived at the innovative concept of CSP on a domestic scale for private use. This is something totally new to the market and it is already attracting great interest among companies in the sector.
Once the product idea has been identified, it is possible to start a series of steps:
- Identification of the development necessary for the technological core, including evaluation and validation tests;
- Identification of the necessary components and tools used to create a prototype or, when possible, an MVP;
- Identification of the necessary partners for the prototype realization (including engineering and manufacturing);
- Identification of the necessary partners for the validation of the prototype, both from a technical (collection of requirements and tests on real use cases) and business point of view (production and price targets, regulatory requirements, etc.);
- IP Property Analysis. Assets such as patents, trade secrets, etc., are a fundamental part of any project that has a business vision. Before creating any kind of project, it is essential to study at least a preliminary freedom-to-operate, which guarantees not to infringe patents in the future, and to make the right choices also in R&D to guarantee the marketability of the final products. In many cases, it is an activity that is assigned to an external firm with experience in the sector;
- Study of a strategy that sets out the objectives of technical development, market analysis and team training, which often includes acquiring new resources to integrate the existing staff. The latter case is highly underestimated, especially in the academic field, but when it comes to the development of new products, taking as an example the medical industry, the skills in the regulatory field are fundamental from the outset, and missing a step can subsequently lead to losing months of work for the redesign and staggering costs.
Only once these steps have been completed, it makes sense to start studying a budget and, consequently, to understand whether the identified call is suitable to support all or part of the identified roadmap.
If this examination turns out to be positive, the preparation of a proposal follows a rather recursive phase, which includes the cyclic repetition of these following steps:
- Identification of the key aspects of each section of the proposal;
- Collection of information, including both that already available to the team and that collected through interactions with industry KOLs;
- Validation of information and evaluation if it is in line with the call requirements;
- Synthesis and simplification of contents to make them accessible to reviewers, who clearly cannot be experts in every sector, market and technology.
Finally, there is a necessary phase of finalization and revision of all the project objectives, including the interaction between the various WPs, the definition of milestones that decide the continuation of a work plan or a change of course within the activities, the definition of the minimum number of required deliverables, the agreements between the partners, especially with regards to the ownership of the generated IP, and the drafting of the tasks.
This work is generally developed in a few weeks and this is possible thanks to the preliminary design & validation activity seen above, which has allowed us to have already clear all the features necessary for a product to be attractive and competitive in a given area, as well as the whole roadmap and the development that will follow.