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An Intro to MBIE Endeavour Funding

Old rumours used to say that  MBIE Endeavour funding wasn't suitable for Early Career Researchers - too large of funding, too competitive of a landscape. But, I have seen firsthand incredible Early Career Researcher success with MBIE Endeavour funding - some people just a few years out of their PhD leading successful bids. Plus, MBIE Endeavour funding has made exciting strides in encouraging diversity on teams - not only gender diversity, ethnicity, but also diversity in seniority - welcoming (and even potentially preferring) teams that support the development of NZ's up and coming academic researchers.

So - what is MBIE Endeavour funding and where do you start? First, talk to your research office - those unsung heroes can truly make the difference on your bid so be sure to get in touch with them (and get in touch with them early so they actually have time to offer and provide support!).

MBIE Endeavour is split into Smart Ideas ($1m funding across 2-3 years) or the larger Research Programmes (>$1-15m funding across 3-5 years). For Early Career Researchers, Smart Ideas is the place to start.

Now - you've flagged your interest with your research office, read through the MBIE information online, started getting set on the portal and checked out the roadshow. What's next? Here are my top 3 tips for preparing your best bid:

  1. Problem Statement - what is your why? We academics love to follow a certain pattern in our academic writing - start with background, build the case with evidence, lead into your research question, hypothesis and aim. Boom. But, MBIE funding mandates a different approach - there is a certain style you need to use to have impact with this funder. Lead with your why - why does this research matter? What is the problem you are solving? Make sure you lead key sections with your problem statement. Don't make the assessors read halfway down the page to understand why this work needs doing. Problem first, solution next, ambitious science after.

  2. Balance your Risk: Risk is key in Smart Idea proposals. MBIE says it themselves: "Scientific and technical risk is the basis of a good proposal." You need to clearly, and explicitly explain what your risk is and make it clear that you are pushing the boundaries. However, it is important to then balance your risk with good risk management. MBIE is a funder like any other, so they want to ensure their investment will be well taken care of. As MBIE says "Risk should be managed through risk mitigation strategies and/or contingency plans. Residual risk should be considered against the potential additional scientific value." How do you do this? Being clear (even in the form of bullet points or a table) what your key risks are and what the mitigation strategies might be. One example? Having a bid led by an Early Career Researcher could be a risk - but it can be mitigated by having a strong team with a mix of experience levels.

  3. Who Benefits? You need to make a clear case around the benefits to New Zealand - benefits should be wide and impactful. Try to think broadly - don't just focus on research benefits alone. What are the economic, environmental or societal benefits that your work holds? By having a clear problem statement (above), you can show the benefits that can arise for NZ by solving that problem. Don't limit yourself to just one benefit either - list any realistic benefit in as measured of a way as possible. MBIE will want references, sources, and data to back up your claims so put in work to make sure you have clear, well considered and widespread benefits to NZ. Again, tables and bullet points work well here.

Interested in reading more? Check out the Assessment and Scoring Guidance page or the Framework for the Impact of Research to inspire your problem and benefits. Contact me if you would like more specific advice on your bid.

There's a million and a half more things I could say on the topic of MBIE Endeavour for Early Career Researchers (FOR/SEO codes, investment signals, executive summaries, new portal, ...). But for now, here's your marching orders: Start early - work with your research office - pull together a vibrant, diverse team - lead with the problem. And remember, best of luck from me!

Are you submitting this year? Let me know how you get on in the forum.


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