How to make a winning grant proposal for healthcare startups

India is a startup hub. Recently, the Indian government’s startup scheme has been in the news. The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), recognises 39,114 startups as of November 3, 2020! That’s a big number. Along with this recognition, came the proposal of setting up an India Startup Fund of ₹1000 crore for technology startups, with another ₹1000 crore for seed funding for all startups. 

If you are a MedTech entrepreneur, who has the vision to create an impactful MedTech solution, you would need funding. One of the best ways to secure this funding is to apply for a government grant. Because there is so much competition, your grant proposal must stand out. How do you make that happen? One is to seek business incubation and mentorship for help in all fields, and two is to write a good grant proposal.

To give you insightful takeaways on the subject, we interviewed Dr. Manjula Das, Principal Investigator, Clinicians Translation Research Program (CTRP), Mazumdar Shaw Medical Foundation.

The use of grant funding

A grant is a certain amount of money given by the government (through organisations like BIRAC), to an organisation (startup or otherwise) for a particular purpose. An entrepreneur may seek a government grant to seek seed funding for a product, for example, a MedTech entrepreneur may seek grant funding to develop a device that helps assess the risk of arthritis in a minute.

“The government in India understood that we need to bring in science and technology innovation in Indian industries. This is why the grants were introduced, and the companies felt very very encouraged,” says Dr. Manjula and adds, “To scale an idea, seed funding is necessary. Academicians are also brought in who know the science and technology angle of that idea. This is why entrepreneurs should look at grants, especially direct ones.”

A grant proposal is a request for funding or investment in an initiative that outlines the proposed project, gives an overview of the required budget and explains the project’s USPs. It is a document that shows that a grant-seeker has a plan and research to back that plan.

Content of a good grant proposal

Dr. Manjula advises that a good grant proposal must have the following characteristics:

1. It must follow the format that is required by the government.

Studying other grant proposals will help get this right. The format is very important while applying for a grant proposal. Be mindful of it.

2. It must have clear aims and objectives about the proposed project.

What exactly is it that you are trying to achieve? For example, if you apply for a grant for a MedTech product, will it solve a problem? What is your aim?

3. It must explain the method that will be followed to achieve the aims and objectives.

This shows how much knowledge an entrepreneur has about the technology that will back the project. Explain HOW you will do what you want to, in detail.

4. It must answer the 'Why?'

What is the novelty or USP of the proposed project? How is it different from the others? Why should you get the grant? That answer should be hard-hitting. Stick to the truth.

5. The grant must highlight any groundwork or research done to prove that this product or solution will be a success.

Do your research and then show the results of the same. Data works wonders.

Get Granted

“The major reason for the failure to get grants is the lack of proper understanding of the project’s technology and science. It will be one of the best practices to first look at an academia-industry partnership. This assures the government that an entrepreneur will have internal guidance from academia about technology. They tend to get a preference. Additionally, include the active participation of a practising clinician partner for assured translation.” advises Dr. Manjula while talking about the grants process.

However, Dr. Manjula does point out a few pitfalls of the grants process that entrepreneurs can be aware of. She says, “Approval takes a huge amount of time. By the time you get it, you might be changing the technology itself. Secondly, if the grant is for three years, the consistency of funding is an issue. You might not get money in the next year. You need to have a plan for what happens if the grant money doesn’t come on time.”

She also advises that one does not need to know anyone in the government to get grants. It is all about the hard work one puts in a project and its proposal. 

Now that you know how to write a good grant proposal, don’t forget to get your business incubated to get practical guidance from mentors who have been there, done that.

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