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Crafting a compelling vision for your major research bid  

This is Part 3 of a 10 part mini-series.

Click here to view all current posts

This Blog is the third of a 10-part series looking at developing major research bids.  

Last week we considered 5 essential factors for developing a winning major research bid, while also gaining key insights and advice from Alex Peden on what funders are looking for.  

Blog 2 – 5 factors for developing a winning major research bid 

This week we turn our attention to crafting a compelling research vision for your major research bid. Specifically, we focus on the importance of having a clear research vision and its many purposes, tools to help with the visioning process, and tips for writing a powerful vision statement. 

Importance and purpose 

A well-crafted and compelling vision is essential for developing your major research bid. At its core, your research vision should articulate the desired future state of what you are working toward. It’s all about ‘big picture’ thinking, defining what really matters, and motivating others to care about it too. 

It serves a number of useful purposes:  

  • Pitching your idea to funders. Use your research vision as a tool for engaging funders and eliciting feedback. Arrange a chat to check whether the scale and ambition of your big idea is appropriate for the funding call – seize this opportunity to test the water before taking forward your proposal. 
  • Recruiting collaborators. Bring in new collaborators using your research vision to inspire and motivate others to join your cause, align expectations and forge common goals. Focus early conversations on why you are undertaking the work, where it is heading, and how they can get involved.  
  • Hooking in reviewers: Whether a reviewer starts reading your proposal from the very first page, or jumps ahead to the case for support, capture their imagination by placing your research vision front and centre – give them a reason to invest their time and energy into reviewing your proposal. 
  • Weaving a golden thread. A clearly defined research vision will set the scene for what’s to come, provides context to the problem you are trying to solve, and will help to frame your aims and objectives. Think of it as the golden thread running through the fabric of your proposal. 

Visioning tools and resources 

A great starting point for generating and refining ideas is a design sprint method called crazy eights, which challenges participants to sketch out eight different ideas or solutions in eight minutes. The first few ideas tend to come quickly, but you really have to push yourself by the time you get to ideas seven and eight – keep going, this is often when the most creative and innovative suggestions surface!  

Once your vision becomes more concrete, an innovation canvas can help with bringing together the key information needed to turn your research idea into reality. It’s usually a single page document structured around a set of core questions – used effectively, it provides a compelling case for your planned direction of travel, and provides the building blocks necessary for that all important vision statement.  

These, and a range of other proven tools and resources are available on the research vision page of the major research bids toolkit to help you articulate the present setting, imagine the future, and identify solutions. Most of these require team input, so it’s the perfect opportunity to engage collaborators and stakeholders.  

Research vision page, major research bids toolkit 


Tips for writing a powerful vision statement 

A powerful vision statement should be:  

  • Inspirational. Use powerful words and vivid phrases to paint the future. Use metaphors to help make complex ideas accessible and relatable to a wide range of audiences. 
  • Ambitious. Nail your colours to the mast and don’t be afraid to set challenging, but realistic, targets – reviewers need to believe that what is envisaged is actually achievable! 
  • Unique. Think imaginatively about what is unique to your vision and idea, amplify these aspects to stand out from the crowd, and to differentiate yourself from others in the field. 
  • Clear. Avoid jargon, keep sentences short and to the point, use precise, uncluttered language. Make it easy for subject specialists and generalists to understand and get behind your proposal. 

Need some inspiration? Head over to the research vision page of the major research bids toolkit, where you will find links to example vision statements for a range of successful major research bids. 

Coming up 

This week we turned our attention to crafting a compelling research vision for your major research bid, focussing on the importance of having a clear research vision and its many purposes, tools to help with the visioning process, and tips for writing a powerful vision statement. Come back next week, when we consider the big strategic questions your major research bid needs to address. 

Keep up to date 

Avoid missing out on future installments of this Blog series by subscribing to the Edinburgh Research Office Blog. Make sure to also bookmark the major research bids toolkit homepage for easy access to the materials highlighted thus far, and to stay up-to-date with the latest major research bids content.  

Major research bids toolkit homepage 

About the author 

Dr Kirsty Collinge is Strategic Research Executive, Edinburgh Research Office. She is the lead author of this Blog series and has developed the accompanying major research bids toolkit. In addition to developing and reviewing a variety of major research bids, Kirsty has experience of setting up and coordinating high-value multi-partner projects. Having worked as a post-doctoral researcher on a large-scale interdisciplinary project, she also appreciates and understands the academic context in which major grants operate.



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