From Need Identification to Impactful Projects – Co-Creative Process to Support Project Idea and Proposal Preparation
World’s multidimensional global challenges need to be addressed using all intertwined potential of science and research, innovation, business, public sector and civil society. Identification of the large-scale challenges and more specific needs at local level is a joint effort. Utilisation of foresight information is of utmost importance in finding the pathways towards sustainable and inclusive solutions and impact for societies.
To capitalise the value of impact, it’s essential to ensure that impact is considered as the starting point for project ideation process. The link between project portfolio and institutional strategy needs to be strengthened, as strategy defines the pathway towards desired impact On the other hand, it also constitutes the main tool to prioritise operative actions during times of scarce resources.
Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) implements the project idea process and platform (EARMA Conference 2021). New elements include incorporation of a pre-ideation phase and clarification of impact targets of project ideas. Yet, the main aim remains to be to secure the alignment of externally funded project portfolio with the institution strategy. The objective of the new elements is to increase the number of new, more mature project ideas, to improve the quality of early-stage idea expert support, and to guarantee an open, collaborative platform for staff members for cross-disciplinary project idea maturation.
In the new phase regarding raw project ideas, idea description can still be short and unorganised. The online platform is accessible for all staff members offering the opportunity for collaborative and cross-disciplinary reflection among peers and early support from RDI experts. There is a direct channel to the second phase where the project idea is elaborated in more detail. The main project objectives must be described, and a financial plan defined. Alignment with institution’s strategy is ensured, and targeted impacts have to be described. The process also requires reflecting the idea against the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In the transparent decision-making process, the Vice President and Head of External Funding give either approval to proceed with the application preparation with necessary resources, or the idea is returned with constructive feedback.
The coverage of project idea management with one process and platform supported by RDI specialists effectively supports TAMK’s strategic, managerial, financial and quality processes and facilitates impact creation. Systematic supportive approach from project idea need identification to early-stage impact consideration has ensured that TAMK’s project portfolio has grown both in number and in quality. Process also strengthens joint institutional values such as co-creation, transparency, equality, cross-disciplinarity and openness. TAMK is more ready to identify and tackle multidimensional local and global challenges with the collaboration of relevant actors to achieve impactful solutions.
The strategic idea process has been implemented in TAMK since 2014. Besides the successes, there still are obvious places for improvement. These include the growing demand for continuous competence development of RDI support experts and research managers in areas such as impact thinking, early-stage idea facilitation, forecasting capabilities, and knowledge of various funding schemes and the policy frameworks behind them.