How to realise a winning EIC Pathfinder Challenge application

Writing a grant application requires much more than filling out the application form. Effectively communicating innovative ideas in a strategic, structured application that meets all requirements and expectations is an important part of our work. This is often a challenge for scientists. After all, a grant application is not a scientific publication, but a project proposal that is fully tailored to the strategic needs of the grant provider. We therefore like to unburden our customers by monitoring strategy and structure, so that they can focus on the most important part: optimally framing their scientific idea.

Locked-in patients

At the end of last year my colleague Anne Koopman and I were invited to support a consortium led by Prof. Nick Ramsey of UMC Utrecht on an application for the EIC Pathfinder Challenge “Tools to measure and stimulate activity in brain tissue”.  Because of our joint neuroscientific background in combination with EIC knowledge and experience, we had an excellent basis to work on this project. The scientific idea was good, the consortium was dedicated and we were convinced that this project, focusing on developing a new technology to allow locked-in patients to communicate in real-time, was a good fit with the call and had a good chance of success.

We still had a month left so we set a tight schedule and worked hard, with regular meetings and a clear division of work. In a joint strategy meeting, we worked out the application at structure level so that we could write out the information according to the Pathfinder structure. The applicants – in addition to Prof.  Ramsey also Dr. Tracy Laabs (Wyss Institute), Prof. Gernot Müller-Putz (TU Graz) and Dr. Jörn Rickert (Cortec Neuro) – were able to complement this further and at the same time focus on the scientific content and the work plan. Well in time we submitted a nicely detailed application, which was awarded with an exceptionally high assessment. We are very pleased that this consortium will have the opportunity to develop their important Brain-Computer Interface technique for locked-in patients!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

For us, this application process was a perfect synergy. We see a nice comparison with the filmed book “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, in which a man with locked-in syndrome describes  his situation as being stuck in a heavy diving costume while his thoughts are flying around inside like a butterfly but not being able to go outside. By supporting the structure of the application, meeting  the  needs of the EU, and monitoring the long-term vision and strategy, we were able to relieve  the consortium of some of the burden of the “diving costume”. This allowed them to focus optimally on the scientific and innovative aspects of the application, resulting in a beautifully awarded project!



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