Hitting Your Target with Clear Objectives
Written by James Holder

The importance of communicating your ideas clearly in a funding proposal should not be underestimated. Being able to succinctly provide the reviewers with the information they require is the aim in every section, but this is even more important when writing the project objectives as it is usually one of the first passages of free text that a reviewer will see. At this early stage in the document it is possible to present your project in such a way that the reviewer already has a clear idea of what you want to achieve, however, it is also possible to confuse a reviewer and make them feel they are having to work hard to interpret your text in order to understand what you are planning.

As an example, in Horizon 2020 applications, “Objectives” is Section 1.1 and the guidance given by the European Commission is as follows:

'Describe the specific objectives for the project, which should be clear, measurable, realistic and achievable within the duration of the project. Objectives should be consistent with the expected exploitation and impact of the project (see section 2).'

Within the above guidance there are four important pointers to help keep your objectives section on track.

  • Clear – The clarity of your objectives will help a reviewer understand many other aspects of your proposal such as how you will be able to address the requirements of the call text, the technical approach you plan to take and the impact that you anticipate your proposal will have following the project’s end date. If they are not clearly communicated a reviewer may struggle to make the connection between your objectives and the rest of your proposal document.
  • Measurable – You must be aiming to deliver something that is unambiguous in its achievement. This could be a proof of concept, a working prototype, a pilot scale system or a final product. Whichever it is, there should be no confusion at the end of the project about whether or not you have achieved your objectives.
  • Realistic – However appealing it may be to over-promise results in the hope of gaining funding approval for your proposal, there is little point in making your objectives unrealistic as this will be viewed negatively by a reviewer who knows your specialism. Ambition is a necessity when making applications for funding, but it is important to keep your aspirations at a level where they can realistically be met within the confines of your proposal budget and timelines. High ambitions can be a driving force behind your efforts, but realistic objectives will keep you grounded and make a successful project more easily achieved.
  • Achievable within the duration of the project – Linked to the need to keep your objectives realistic is the need to ensure that they can be completed within the proposed lifetime of the project. The objectives you propose are what you will be expected to deliver, therefore if they can’t be achieved during the life of the project then they shouldn’t be listed as objectives for the project. You should have a clear idea of what may be achieved after the end of the project, but this should be communicated in the Exploitation and Impact sections.

As a final thought, it is often useful to refer back to your objectives throughout the remainder of your funding proposal. This will help keep them fresh in your reviewer’s mind and will explain how the technical methods, proposed exploitation and impacts of your proposal all flow from the objectives that were detailed at the very start.

If you think you might benefit from more specific guidance in your proposal writing then Euram would be pleased to offer assistance. Please feel free to contact us at support@euram.ltd.uk.