This is a tale of two bids; two recent JISC bids to be precise. One submitted via the ‘traditional’ route, and one via the experimental ‘Elevator‘ route. This blog post is a brief reflection of my thoughts about these, and a comparison of the experience, in particular comparing the effort involved.
First, I should provide a brief explanation of the two routes:
- The ‘traditional’ route: Traditionally JISC requires bid proposals to be submitted as text documents, usually in the range of 6 to 12 pages. These include cover sheets, budgets, benefits and risks, a bit about the people involved, and of course an explanation of the problem that will be investigated. On top of that, there are letters of support and FOI checklists. As part of the recent JISC Digital Infrastructure call, we submitted a couple of bids. What we bid for is somewhat irrelevant, but I will disclose that the two bids we submitted were requesting funding of approx £30,000 each. These proposals will now be marked by internal and external markers, followed by a panel decision.
- The Elevator route: JISC are currently running an experimental funding stream, known as the JISC Elevator. The idea is that proposals should be lightweight, consisting of a brief video presentation, along with a few words. No budgets, no letters of support, no FOI statements – just an elevator pitch about the idea. This is the first difference. The second difference is that ‘the crowd’, which in this case consists of anyone with a .ac.uk email address, are allowed to vote on which projects should be considered for funding. Any that get enough votes will go forward for consideration by a panel. The number of votes required are proportional to the amount requested, with three bands being up to £2,500, up to £5,000, and up to £10,000. We pitched at the bottom end of this scale, meaning that we required 50 votes (which we received in less than 24 hours).
I’ll openly admit that the traditional route is often stressful. It takes around about 1 week of effort (full time), usually spread over 3 or 4 weeks. The final days tend to get quite frantic as everything is pulled together, we go through internal reviews and consents, seek letters of support, and pull the bid together for final submission.
In comparison, our pitch for the elevator took about half a day – an hour to refine the idea and seek approval, an hour to write a script, an hour to record the voices, an hour to make the video, and a few minutes to upload it.
The feeling at the end of the elevator process was markedly different to the end of the traditional process – and this felt good. However, when you look at the sums (adjusted slightly to make the numbers easier)…
Elevator: 1/2 day = £3,000 potential funding
Traditional: 5 days = £30,000 potential funding
So the actual potential return per hour invested in bid writing is the same!
However if I extrapolate this to other bids I have written in the past, some of which have been for higher amounts, the trend does not seem to continue in a linear fashion.
My personal experience (your mileage may vary – it would be good to compare notes!), is that bids in the range of thirty to perhaps two hundred thousand, take a similar amount of time: a week or so for a primary proposal author, and various time commitments from other parties. But bids above this amount then start taking longer again, as project complexities, often around collaboration and external involvement kick in.
What can I conclude from this? I’m not sure really! Feel free to draw your own conclusions and to make comparisons with your own experience.
What I can say, is that we enjoyed the process of making, submitting, and then publicising our elevator pitch. We felt that we had more freedom to be inventive with our interpretation of the submission requirements, and felt quite refreshed at the end of the process, rather than frazzled!
Now we await the outcomes of both…