Having come from a background in consultancy and government where tendering for work and evaluating tender proposals was an everyday part of life it surprised me greatly how tendering for research work is not something that commonly occurs in the academic community. There are and always will be exceptions to this with some departments gaining most of their research income through tendering for research work from governments, charities and other agencies.
I recognise that not all tendered work will either meet the definitions of research, be they the Frascati definition or the REF definition but there is a great deal of research work that is tendered and can be usefully used to develop subsequent publications and dare I say it, Impact! For some academics tendering can be seen as responding to other people’s research agendas and as such, won’t meet their own academic or research goals. This is undoubtedly true in some cases but creative thinking can ensure that the research work undertaken contributes to their specific research interests. Talking to your research development officer or team can help here.
Tendering for research work is a useful way of building a research profile, gaining an understanding of how to write research funding proposals and how to manage a research project and budget. This can be particularly useful for early career researchers or smaller universities starting with a small research base.
Despite this I understand that tendering can be stepping into the unknown for many academics and a lack of knowledge regarding how to tender can put people off. Tendering doesn’t have to be difficult but there are some key rules you should follow and it is really helpful if the university or department concerned takes the time to set up professional templates that can be easily adapted to meet each unique tender opportunity. If your university doesn’t have any templates then talk to your research office or ask colleagues who may have tendered for work before, there may be useful examples that can be used to develop templates.
To help demystify the process I have included a simple guide to tendering for research work below. It covers the basics and should enable the development of professional and competitive tenders. I hope you find it useful. Let me know if you have any suggestions or other ideas to help develop great tenders.