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Overcoming the challenges of managing multiple grants in parallel

Qurin Diagnostics: 4 important grant management actions to be in control

In the fast-paced world of cancer diagnostics, Qurin Diagnostics has emerged as one of the leading players. The company is at the forefront of groundbreaking cancer research with its multi-focused approach to biomarker discovery, biochip development, early cancer diagnostics, and sample preparation. As a frontrunner in its field, Qurin has been awarded multiple national and international grants, including InnovatieKrediet, REACT-EU, MIT R&D, and Nationaal Groeifonds (NGF), which have enabled the company to accelerate its R&D. Qurin is now active in multiple projects, collaborating with a wide range of partners.

Qurin’s outstanding success in fundraising became intertwined with the challenge to align the various requirements of the regional, national, and European funding agencies with the in-house grant management systems and workflows. Managing grants in the complex and fast-paced field of life science projects can be challenging and time consuming, especially when dealing with different funding agencies in parallel. Grant management expertise and precision are essential for the strict (reporting) requirements, evolving guidelines, and critical deadlines involved.

At the beginning of this year, we teamed up with Qurin to set up a sound grant management system to ensure that all funding requirements are met and unforeseen events in the company, project results, or consortia are managed well – all with the aim of ensuring that Qurin actually receives the funding money from the awarded grants.

The biggest challenge in this case is coordinating the R&D lines running within the company and the work packages of the various projects that were awarded grants. In actuality, the activities described in the different grant projects are closely interconnected while positive or negative R&D results will impact the work packages of various grant simulations. High-precision management is essential for the allocation of the team (reporting of hours) and costs to each project, as well as for communicating with the various project partners and funding agencies on project progress.

A systematic approach to grant management

At Qurin, we have implemented our systematic, step-by-step grant management approach to ensure optimal grip on the project management, reporting, and relationship management with the funding agencies and between the partners in the projects.

1) Stakeholder management to collect all relevant documentation and information

The key to ensuring you have all information on the table and staying (pro)actively informed when needed is to establish relations with all parties involved. In this case, relations were established with all Qurin employees working on projects, funding bodies, project officers, consortium partners, and the main applicants of each project to collect all relevant data. This not only enables us to stay ahead and ensure that everyone knows what is expected from each other, but it also keeps everyone engaged in ensuring that no important information is missing.

grant management - a systematic approach

2) Structure and organize

The next step in gaining control is to organize everything systematically. The first action we took with Qurin was to create a comprehensive overview of all specifications for each grant, including the type of grant, funding body, contact details, and status/timeline/costs of each grant. This overview forms the basis for the planning of our daily work and prioritizes actions. Secondly, to stay ahead in the overviews and reporting, we implemented a workflow with the Qurin team to structurally categorize each relevant document (administration, results from R&D, timesheets, invoices, etc.) with the associated grant – both in the document as well as at the location where it is saved. Finally, we designed template documents for FTE allocation, project costs, and invoices, streamlining all costs made on each grant. This provides an overview of all monthly company costs, outlined per grant. This approach and monthly control ensures that all required documents are available and prevents mistakes, such as double reporting of costs, which could endanger upcoming funding payments.

3) Establish clear deadlines

Grant management requires collaboration between many people. To ensure that each person is in control and effectively contributes to the process of securing all funding, we create, execute, and lead a comprehensive roadmap that details all upcoming deadlines, actions, dependencies, and the responsible person. By engaging the right people at the right time, the preparation of reports and communication with the funding agency is streamlined. The workflow provides sufficient time for the project teams to provide their input and for the management team to perform the scientific and financial reviews before submission to the funding agency. This way, we are in control and form an effective team together.

4) Implement standardized processes

The final thing that makes a big difference is realizing efficient standardized processes that are important in grant management. This not only saves time, but also makes your grant projects less prone to errors. We set up a workflow with Qurin with clear communication lines. Each employee and MT member is aware of his or her responsibility, with whom to communicate, and when to hand in important documents. All communication leads to a single grant management leader. He or she is kept fully informed, ensures that all relations with the funding agencies are maintained, keeps an overview of all running grant projects, and performs the quality checks on the system.

5) Foster effective communication

As the steps above reflect, communication and leadership by a strong grant manager are pivotal to ensure that everyone can work effectively and that the (interim) payments of grants are released on time. Poor communication, mistakes in reporting, and a lack of information sharing are critical elements that lead to tedious requests from funding agencies, frustrations in consortia, and stagnation of grant payments. To ensure that collaboration and grant management are well-organized, the FFUND grant manager and Qurin project team have monthly progress meetings to discuss technical and financial updates, upcoming deadlines, and potential deviations in the projects. By implementing these simple updates in a structural way, it becomes easy to stay ahead and remain in control.

At FFUND, they have a wide expertise when it comes to life science grant application and management. With their broad knowledge and clear communication, they have helped us tremendously in better managing our ongoing subsidies and applying for new ones.

Employee of Qurin

Does it work?

Looking back on the past half year, the implementing structure and clarity were the keys to gaining control and completing the puzzle that works for both Qurin and the funding agencies. Open and clear communication resulted in a fluent and energetic collaboration between Qurin and FFUND. A successful collaboration that we are glad to continue!

As a final note, I would like to say this to you: Don’t allow the complexity and time burden of grant management to hinder the progress of your projects. Make sure to allocate a knowledgeable grant manager in your team who embraces grant management as a core responsibility.

Do you need help with grant management? Feel free to reach out to us!

About the author
Picture of Marieke Dekker

Marieke Dekker