The National Science Agenda – Research on Routes through Consortia (NWA-ORC) funds scientific research aimed at societal breakthroughs. The NWA-ORC Letters of Intent for 2022 have been submitted and the next important step is underway: To focus on writing the preproposal (deadline 9 June 2022). For several years now, we have happily supported NWA-ORC consortia with their application, with great satisfaction and success. As “chain wide” collaboration is required, with partners across society working together to achieve impact, a different way of thinking and research approach is necessary.
Scientists usually think in terms of scientific questions. A good NWA-ORC application, however, argues from societal problems and solutions. This requires a good Impact Plan (or Impact Outlook for projects aimed at scientific breakthroughs).
The Impact Plan focuses on making the Impact Pathway (see figure) explicit. The design of the research activities, the consortium, the cooperation with societal partners and the implementation of a project must be fully in line with this Pathway. This is why it is important to work this out at an early stage, even before writing the preproposal.
The preproposal only asks whether the Impact Plan or Impact Outlook approach is applicable. As a result, only at the stage of the full application consortia first come into contact with the Impact Plan. This significantly reduces the chances of a good, successful application. It tends to lead to ad hoc actions, such as last-minute adjustments to the research proposal and the consortium, while you should actually only be focusing on the concrete elaboration of your ideas at this stage.
As a result of our years of experience with the NWA-ORC and the Impact Plan Approach, we have generated an extensive toolkit. This allows us to guide consortia from the beginning to systematically and strategically align their Impact Plan with the research plan and the capacities of the consortium capacities. It is essential for the success of the project to start this process before the preproposal is written. Which is now!