EARMA Conference Oslo


Take the customer journey

Pre-award support for EU funding in the new normal


Heli Honkanen


  • V
    Valtteri Nikkinen
  • L
    Leena Sukselainen
  • R
    Renne Vantola


EARMA Conference Oslo

Format: Poster

Topic: Proposal Development


We present service design methodology as a practical tool for developing user-friendly EU funding pre-award support services in small research organizations.

We use postdoctoral researcher’s customer journey as an example of how the methodology aids research support services first identifying research personnel’s service needs and second optimizing the use of the limited research support resources in addressing the needs efficiently.

Service design is a novel customer-centered approach adopted recently in wide variety of organizations, but to our knowledge not commonly applied in research institutions. Customer journeys are service design tools used to describe the needs, goals, and barriers of a specific identified group of customers, target persona, for using a service.

Pre-award research support provides a fruitful context for exploring the possibilities of the service design approach in research institutions. Growing competition for research funding and the increasing diversity of national and international funding instruments has increased the need to design efficient pre-award support services to relieve researchers’ pressure in fund-raising continuum of their research career. Additionally, past two years have considerably changed the landscape of international research cooperation and the long term effects of this change are yet to be seen. Here we develop the service design approach further, focusing on identifying more supportive modes of action in networking and partnership building for researchers in the new normal.

We ground our presentation on the data we have collected in the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI), which is a 150-person research organization, and one of the four core operative units in the National Land Survey of Finland (NLS). Due to the national trend of diminishing governmental funding for research, the Institute has a growing demand for competitive funding, especially from other than national sources. To enhance FGI researchers’ success particularly in EU funding calls, a specific task for pre-award EU support was established by NLS in 2018.

Previously, in Honkanen et al. (EARMA 2019), we identified three target personas, Sanna PhD student, Paavo Postdoc and Diana Director, to help us as service providers to recognize their different needs as customers for pre-award support. In the poster we present Paavo Postdoc’s customer journey with the pre-award support services, from awareness raising of funding opportunities, through proposal preparation and submission support to grant decision. We discuss how implementation of research management in small research organization can benefit from service design and what new challenges entering the new normal brings to the support services and how they could be solved.

We provide the following take away messages: 1. Development of research support services can benefit from service design approach, 2. Small research organizations with limited resources benefit from recognizing different customer needs and targeted research support services, and 3. Individual researchers receive customized support to better respond to their career development stage.