Advice for Major Center Proposals

ADR Support of Faculty Preparing Major Proposals

The challenge is to succeed in winning competitions for major centers or laboratories.  Successful proposals require several elements:

  • Technical excellence
  • Sound organizational structure
  • Budget rigor
  • Effective outreach components
  • Responsiveness to sponsor’s vision
  • Completeness
  • Presentation quality

The Office of the ADR can provide important contributions to each of the elements.

Technical excellence
Engineering and scientific leadership of a large center must be in place to enable a winning proposal.  In the long run, ADR can anticipate the kinds of technical competence that will eventually be needed to address national priorities and influence faculty recruitment.  In the shorter run, ADR can assist the proposing team in identifying technical strengths across the CoE, the University and other universities.  ADR can provide resources for consultation on areas where internal expertise is limited. The ADR can convene review panels to identify flaws or weaknesses in time to correct them in the submitted proposal.

Organizational structure
The CoE has a large store of knowledge on organizational structures that have succeeded and experience with the strengths and weaknesses of various models of organization.  The ADR can convene a working group to work with the investigators and staff to assure an organizational model that will appeal to the sponsor and that will be likely to succeed.  The ADR can convene review panels of organization experts to review the organizational structure of the proposal in time to correct weaknesses in the submitted proposal.

Budget rigor
Proposals with unrealistic budgets have little chance of success.  The CoE Administration has the talent to review budgets for rigor and the ADR can tap into that talent pool.  The ADR can also facilitate ORSP or consultant review of the budget.

The CoE Administration has the capability to contribute winning techniques to the several outreach components of a proposal, viz. K-12 education, minority and female participation and public dissemination of results.  The offices of the CoE can provide major assistance to the investigators in elaborating a strong outreach program.  The ADR can facilitate the contribution of the CoE offices and can convene a panel to review the product.

Responsiveness to sponsor’s vision
The ADR can support activities aimed at achieving deep understanding of the sponsor’s vision for the initiative.  The ADR can provide resources for investigator and staff visits to offices that can provide input to that understanding and the ADR will meet with the chief of the sponsor office to both add to the understanding and convey the conviction of the CoE.  The ADR can review the proposal to assess its responsiveness to the sponsor vision.

The Announcement of Opportunity should be reviewed by the proposing team and by the ADR to determine all of the required elements and move to be sure that the capability to respond to all is in place.  The proposal should be reviewed by the ADR for the same purpose.

Presentation quality
The proposal document must be highly professional with no typographical or grammatical errors.  The proposal should be concise and hard hitting with no extraneous material.  The visual aids should be attractive and effective.  The proposal must conform to the sponsor’s rules but should also be creative and exciting.  The ADR can provide resources for professional assistance in preparation and review of the proposal.

Industry support
Most large center opportunities mandate the inclusion of industrial partners.  Usually, these will come from existing relationships but the CoE Office of Corporate Relations can assist proposing teams in various ways including the identification of new partners and in the logistics of securing formal declarations of support.

The ADR can be a major player in the preparation of a proposal for a large center or laboratory.  The ADR is well positioned to reach across departmental and school boundaries to assist the PI in assembling a winning team.  The ADR can facilitate multiple reviews of proposals to eliminate defects and maximize impact.

The activities that would enable an effective contribution would require ADR participation at a level that might best be accomplished by an independent faculty member assisting the ADR during the period of pre-proposal and proposal preparation.