A research project: for entrepreneurs who will push the boundaries of the state-of-the-art in their industry

A research project: for entrepreneurs who will push the boundaries of the state-of-the-art in their industry

Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you have an idea that you are convinced will turn the course of your entire industry upside down. The product, service or process you envision is not yet remotely on the market; not here at home, but not abroad either. The reason? Your idea is very innovative and not at all obvious, to the extent that significant knowledge acquisition must take place in order to develop the product, service or process. The time horizon for start of commercialization can easily be 3 to 4 years. Calling on 1 or more research groups to support knowledge building for your company doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Flanders supports such knowledge acquisition through VLAIO’s support instrument of a research project.

What is a research project?

The Innovation & Enterprise Agency awards innovation grants to companies through various support instruments. The two most important are “research projects” and “development projects. In both cases, these are projects in which technological challenges are overcome; with the goal of arriving at a product, service or process that will break through commercially and will ultimately add value to Flanders. This added value can be both economic and social in nature.

So what is the difference between a development project and a research project?

In a research project, the degree of knowledge acquisition and the degree of challenges is greater than in a development project. The degree of maturity of a technology is expressed through the so-called Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). Research activities are located in TRLs 1 to 3, development activities in TRLs 4 and 5. From TRL 9, your innovative concept is ready to storm the market.

The higher degree of challenges translates into a higher rate of support for research projects, which is 50% basic support versus 25% for development projects. (The percentage can be increased by surcharges in either case, depending on the SME status of your company and/or the fact that you will be working with independent partners within the project). In other words, because the outcome of the project is more uncertain, Flanders is reaching out a bigger helping hand.

“Why should my company go for 25% support when it can also get 50%?

That seems like an attractive thought, but the two types of projects are not as “interchangeable” as they may seem at first glance. Indeed, against the high rate of support for research projects, VLAIO expects that the applicant is very well aware of the challenges, that they are of a high standard (its solution must represent at least a demonstrable advance over the accessible state-of-the-art in the field), as well as that a quality plan of action is placed against the formulated challenges that maximizes the likelihood of achieving the project objectives. If the capacity to build the necessary knowledge is lacking within the company (e.g., because your company does not have an internal research cell), the applicant is supposed to engage external knowledge partners.

In assessing the challenges and how they are addressed, VLAIO – in addition to its own group of scientifically trained project advisors – calls on external experts, very often from academia and, when relevant, even of international origin. Just to say, you go over more than 1 night when formatting and submitting a research project.

However, if your plans take on the allure of a research project, as described above, it is surely worth taking up the challenge and translating your innovative idea into an application for this type of support!

How much support do you get for a research project?

A research project will receive a minimum of €100,000 and a maximum of €3 million in funding. The grant is calculated as a percentage of the total project budget. All costs that support knowledge acquisition can be part of the budget. Categories include internal personnel costs, overhead costs, operating costs, major subcontracting costs, investment costs (depreciation during the project period) and research partner costs. The base support rate for research is 50%. SMEs will receive (at least) 10% additional support. The support rate for research projects is capped at 60%, however.

Additional conditions for research projects

  • In principle, the project duration is up to 3 years.
  • A project can start at the earliest on the first day of the month after submission.
  • Projects that include both research and development can be submitted as research projects. It is up to the applicant to justify which parts it considers research (50% basic support) or development (25% basic support).
  • A small enterprise receives 20% additional support and a medium enterprise receives 10% additional support on top of the basic support.
  • A project can also receive an additional 10% support if there is an actual balanced collaboration between several independent grantees (“business partners”). Subcontracts are not included.

What can Konnekto do for your company in this regard?

A lot! Konnekto’s grant consultants have extensive experience with this aid instrument and can support your company from A to Z in preparing, submitting and guiding your file during (and after) the evaluation process.

Process of the grant application through Konnekto

First, we assess whether the plans meet the criteria of a research project. If it is a project that includes both research and development activities, we help distinguish it and thus maximize support. Based on a series of interviews, we gather the necessary information to fully write out the application. We handle the submission in the VLAIO portal, and prepare you and your staff for the interview with VLAIO’s project advisor. After this conversation, we make the necessary adjustments to the file in consultation, before it is turned over to outside experts for review. We support in answering questions these experts may have, if necessary.

Even after project approval, we remain ready to guide your company in reporting and applying for annual grants.

Contact us

Would you like to kick off an idea for a research project? If so, please feel free to contact us using the form below or our contact information.