How to strengthen the quality of your bids?


The development of a robust full application is an important element of any project, essential for the approval of funding and as an evolving tool to measure, control and evaluate delivery.

A quality bid is one of the outputs of a strategic approach to project development – the strategy and budget plan underpinning the project are one of the key elements of a successful bid.

Step 1: To build up a strong efficient environment as a background for quality projects.

  • Network to create long-lasting links and to promote the University externally : Make yourself known regionally, nationally and at a European level or more: Network with lobbying organisations, potential partners and funding authorities. Target national or international events and trainings.
  • Understand and target the University and Faculty’s priorities and plans for future: make sure the project you are developing fits the overall plan, as you will need to demonstrate it in your bid.
  • Identify and communicate with key members of staff who will be involved in your projects. Training on funding opportunities might be an option to be considered.
  • Learn lessons from rejected bids: have and ask for feedback from funding contacts about the reasons for their rejection.


Step 2: Identification and development of the project

  • Assess the demand for the project and collect evidence to demonstrate this demand (from a beneficiary point of view as well). Depending on the size of the project, this could take the form of a report from a third party – either an independent study, or a verification of in-house findings.
  • Give evidence of market failure, and explain why the project should be funded by the public sector in general. What is preventing the private sector from solving this problem or exploiting this opportunity?
  • Build up the right team* for the project to be developed and implemented. Make up your team strategically: gathering the right people is vital for creative ideas to construct the content of the project and to share the administrative tasks.

*TIP: Aspects of the team to consider: Interdisciplinary (cross departmental?), collaborative (scholars from other Universities?), other groups external to Higher Education (such as museum, schools, community groups, public policy bodies?). Note that external groups will bring expertise, resources and sometimes financial aid.


Step 3: Identifying the right fund and developing the bid

  • Contact the external project team: Once you have defined your project [it is your project that determinates the fund you will apply for, not the other way around], choosing the right funding programme that fits the project specifications is not an easy task. The External Project Team is your key contact within this step, and will conduct the funding search for you, as well as the bid writing if needed. Please note that bids above £100,000 need the Executives approval. Some online process needs the EPT approval (i.e. Je-S British Academy, Wellcome Trust).
  • Inform the team on the fund modalities. The external project team will also support you in this step. Make sure the persons involved in the project/bid development are aware deadlines, modalities, requirements and criteria of the fund. As well as the audit requirements and reporting requirements if the bid is successful.
  • Create convenient ways of working in order to move the project forward: One or two key people are needed at this stage, to drive the project forward. Develop an agreed timetable with all academics/partners involved for the bid development, with key milestones and clear deadlines for matching the submission deadline. The external project team will help you in defining a time scale for submitting the grant application for concrete to be achieved.
  • Sort out the bid budget: contact your faculties finance staff early to sort out the budget and benefit from their understanding of University’s approach to Full Economic Costing (FEC). Identify the match funding available, which can be from other national or local public funders and private match funders. it can also be in-kind (staff time).
  • Bid writing: the External Project Team can support you. Give enough time to write the bid (drafting and rewriting), make sure the project is compliant with any criteria specified in the relevant grant/call template, and describe how the project supports any relevant internal, regional, national and European plans/strategies/projects.

*TIP: Write a first draft of the whole bid in “bullet point” format, and circulate it to colleagues and collaborators for comments, then collect any additions and changes. Contact the funding body/main contact for a first submission of the draft to get their advice (when permitted).

Don’t forget to identify key milestones, to avoid any delays or key elements:

  • Funding Approval
  • Contract Signature (if applicable)
  • Key deliverable milestones
  • Completion of deliverables
  • Completion of benefits monitoring
  • Payments Complete (note possible retentions for capital projects)
  • Project Close
  • Independent project audit and evaluation
  • Please ensure that both capital and revenue milestones are included.


And don’t give up if the bid is not approved. Get feedback from the funding body and rewrite/rethink your project to be ready to the next call for proposal.  You will be known then and expected to bid again, with a better quality bid.

Five Top Tips for Knockout Bid Submissions

boxing gloves


Five Top Tips for Knockout Bid Submissions

  • Appoint one person whose only job is to make sure everyone else does theirs! – It is vitally important for there to be someone who is ultimately responsible for the bid, through whom every action flows. A good bid leader will drive the bid forward and coordinate a submission delivered on time and on target. Pick a good organiser and a popular team member to whom people will respond.
  • Ensure you have the right partners that will add value to the bid and have the right skills! – It’s rare for an individual to put together a large bid completely on their own. Utilise your team to build a wide-ranging team of specialists and your proposal will be completed with time to spare and resounding with confidence and knowledge
  • Brief well and set clear deadlines! – There is a period of time at the start of a bid submission where you will brief your collaborators on what is required of them and how long they have to do it. Handle this well and it will pay dividends later! Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to divide the workload. I suggest that you begin by reading the invitation documents in detail and assigning each question, section or task to a department or individual. One way to kick-start an effective and well-informed working team is to hold a group session where everyone can be briefed together, and ideas and suggestions can be shared among you.
  • Start a library (and keep it in good shape)! – Other than people a well written and well-tended content library is your greatest ally in preparing winning bids. BUT a bid comprising entirely of pre-written text is an impersonal and careless approach. A good content library if kept up to date with new and revised material, can contribute to as much as 80% of your bid, providing you and your team with more time to work on the essential and unique content that lies at the heart of every good submission.
  • Don’t count the days. Make the days count! – Channel your energies at the right time. Your energy, enthusiasm, clarity and creativity will all fluctuate wildly during the bid writing process. If you use this natural ebb and flow to maximise your most productive periods, your bid will be better for it.  Become adept at the art of timing and pacing and you’ll float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, not the other way round.

Keep an eye on progress and don’t be reluctant to send polite BUT persistent reminders as deadlines loom because when the bell goes your time is up, ready or not!

If you require bid writing support for commercial bids then please contact me at  or if you require support for research bids including Horizon2020 then contact the external projects team at