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If you’ve ever looked into funding opportunities for a project, then you will likely have come across ‘match funding’, or marching funds. Match funding has traditionally been found in charity on non-profit settings, and still remains prevalent in those settings today. They have also become more prevalent in a wider range of industries that stand to benefit from this particular funding type.

In this article, we’re going to look at what exactly match funding is, why it is often used, where you might find opportunities for match funding, before providing some top tips for how to maximise your success of winning matched fund project grants.

Match Funding Definition

Match funding is defined as when funding is paid in proportion to funding being paid from other sources. What this usually means for businesses, is that a grant will be paid on the condition that a certain amount of funding is also contributed, usually privately. For businesses who are pursuing projects that qualify for match funding, they will usually provide the ‘match’ themselves, where a public sector organisation or foundation provides the other funds. They are particularly useful where a project's success is aligned with the interests of the business conducting it as well as the funding organisation.

Advantages of Match Funding

Match funding may be chosen for several reasons. Importantly, it has key benefits over traditional funding mechanisms, which makes it attractive to both providers and recipients of grant funding.

The first, most clear advantage, is that the cost burden is reduced, compared to if the bill was footed by one party. Where two parties (the recipient and provider) stand to gain from a project, it makes sense that the cost is split between them. It also allows the risk of the project to be spread, which brings us on to our next point

The second advantage is that by having multiple parties invested in a project, the motivation to collaborate increases. It is a well known fact that collaboration increases a project's chances of success, so having this model in place provides a safety that collaboration is likely to take place.

Thirdly, and likely as a result of the success of match funded projects, matched funding has proven to be more effective in raising money than traditional methods. It may even be the case that by contributing a relatively small amount of money, a recipient may be able to receive a larger amount than they would have normally received through traditional funding. 

These 3 factors are some of the reasons that match funding can be so attractive. So now we understand what match funding is, and why it may be chosen, let’s look at some of the ways matched funding can be raised.

Match Funding Grants UK

In the UK, there are several options available for organisations looking to pursue matched funding.

The first, and most well known, is through Innovate UK. Innovate UK is the UK government's agency for distributing funds for projects that are considered to be in the public interest. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a public body funded by grant-aid from the UK government. They have a budget of around £2bn per year, and their projects are typically business focused, aiming on de-risking, enabling and supporting innovation.

Almost all of Innovate UK’s funds involve some kind of match funding. Innovate UK have a maximum fund up to 70% of a project, but it can often be less. This is partly due to Innovate UK’s focus on business viability. Applicants are assessed both on their technology and their business potential because Innovate UK wants to fund projects with a solid route to market. This is therefore a key example of where match funding can be used to fund projects that are both beneficial to society and to the recipients business. It’s no surprise that Innovate UK chose this funding mechanism.

Outside of Innovate UK, we’re starting to see more examples of match funding being used for projects. The Knowledge Transfer Partnership is one these examples. It works by supporting projects by encouraging businesses to collaborate with academia or research organisations. They also match funding, providing two thirds of the project cost to small companies, and half of the project cost to large companies. We’ve already discussed how match funding can stimulate collaboration, so this is a great real-life use case of it in action. If you’d like to find out more about the Knowledge Transfer Partnership and their grant process, head to the government website.

We’re also starting to see match funding applied to more industry specific scenarios, where previously grants may have been distributed in a less targeted way, or even not at all. Ofwat has recently launched their innovation fund for the water sector, in partnership with Nesta. This is a particularly generous offering, with only 10% of the total project costs being requested by the recipient. This was an industry that prior to Ofwats increased involvement, had much more limited, often ad-hoc funding available. It just goes to show how matching funds can remove some of the barriers to innovation funding that previously existed, bringing grants to new industries. For more information, head over to Ofwat’s website.

Match Funding Grants in Europe

It’s not just the UK that’s benefiting from match funding. Across Europe we’re seeing all kinds of match funding project grants becoming available.

European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) are an example of this. They will typically provide up to 50% of the project cost. What makes it different however to the UK grants discussed is the origin of the ‘other sources’. Whereas with UK project funds, the match would usually be funded privately, the ERDF funds allow for local or regional government to provide the rest of the funding. This means that theoretically, companies can apply for match funds, with the ability to have separate organisations matching the funds. This reduced the cost burden that would otherwise be incurred by the recipient company. Their official guidance states: 

The funding for the remaining balance of eligible costs (known as match funding) must be available from the outset. It may come from the applicants themselves (and  any delivery partners’ resources), or from other organisations in the public or private sector

This opens a lot more flexibility in the options for matching the funds, and should be an attractive option for organisations who want to reduce their own cost exposure in a project.

Other European funding mechanisms will have more specific areas of focus. A few examples of these are: the European Social Fund, the European Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. Again, the matches for these tend to be 50%, but may differ, as a variety of rules are in place. Since the rules can get complicated, we suggest going and researching your own sector specific rules, through your local government or through the EU website.

Global Match Funding Opportunities

Globally, there are organisations that provide grants with the expectation of matching to occur. These organisations tend to have less of a business development focus, and more of a particular strategic objective. Bodies such as: ‘The global fund’, which has a strategic objective of reducing disease and illness in poverty stricken countries, UNESCO, which has an educational, scientific and cultural focus and the WHO, which has a health focus are all examples of bodies that provide match funding. They are all funded in some way by the United Nations, hence their global approach.

Though these organisations will typically be supporting large multinational corporations with a specific focus, the global fund can be applied for by anyone. It’s therefore worth considering as an option if your organisation is conducting activity in one of these specific areas.

Final Thoughts

Throughout this article, we’ve illustrated that the world is definitely waking up to the benefits of matched funding. With it comes opportunities for organisations across the world to apply for grant funding, as long as they’re willing to match it in some way.

If you or your organisation are interested in learning more about how you can access funding for your projects, check out our recent whitepaper below, and learn how to never miss a funding opportunity.

Managing a project where multiple stakeholders are involved can often feel like a tricky balancing act. When there are different groups, each with different aims or objectives, they often will have different expectations. For those managing the project, things can get very complicated very quickly. That’s why we would recommend going into your project with a robust stakeholder management plan, which makes sure your stakeholder expectations are adequately managed. In this article, we’re going to look at what exactly a stakeholder management plan is, before discussing some ways to go about it.

What are Stakeholders?

When we talk about stakeholders, we’re referring to anyone that has an interest in the project. For small projects, there are likely fewer stakeholders, whereas larger projects will have a greater number of stakeholders. Stakeholders can be both internal or external. Internal stakeholders will be those who operate inside the organisation conducting the project. External stakeholders generally exist outside the organisation, but still with an interest in the project.

What also needs to be understood about stakeholders is that they will often have different interests and objectives to one another. This is where the challenge of managing stakeholders comes about, as the needs of each stakeholder group needs to be managed.

Importance of Stakeholder Management

Stakeholders can have a degree of impact on whether a project becomes successful or not. Since no project exists in a vacuum, it often requires support, whether that be in the form of funding, approval, co-operation or something else entirely. Since having stakeholders on side can be paramount to a project's success, a stakeholder management plan will generally seek to achieve ‘buy-in’ from stakeholders. This means that the stakeholders are supportive of the project, and will do all they can to see it succeed.

Why create a Stakeholder Management Plan?

Now that we’ve understood why stakeholders are important, and why they need to be managed, you may be wondering why we need a plan to achieve this. It may be that you have previously managed stakeholders in an ad hoc way, reporting the information that you think is relevant to them whenever it seems appropriate.

There are a few reasons to avoid this, and do things in a more structured way.

The first is that by having a stakeholder management plan in place, you are aligning their expectations from the outset. You are making it clear to them when to expect communications and what they will be regarding. This prevents any surprises further down the line.

Next, by creating a stakeholder management plan, you’re ensuring each stakeholder is receiving the information that they are concerned with. This avoids bombarind stakeholders with information not relevant to them, or worse, missing out on vital information they’re most concerned with.

It should also be considered that not all stakeholders will require as much attention as others, something we will explain in more detail later on. Since resources in a project are often limited, having a stakeholder management in place that clearly indicates which stakeholders need what level of attention avoids you or your staff expending too much resource on unnecessary communications.

What to include in a Stakeholder Management Plan?

Now that we’ve established what a stakeholder management plan is needed, we can look at the key parts of a solid stakeholder management plan.

A good stakeholder management plan will usually start with stakeholder mapping, which we’ve discussed in detail in another article. Stakeholder mapping is important as it details all the relevant stakeholders, before prioritising them according to a matrix. As mentioned, this is useful for prioritising your organisation's resource use, prioritising stakeholders with the most influence and relevance to the project.

Next, you’ll want to consider drafting a stakeholder communication plan as part of your stakeholder management plan. The stakeholder communication plan details what communication channels will be used for each group, along with the frequency of communication and the information that they will receive. It’s useful here to first consult with your stakeholders, to make sure that they’re happy with what is being proposed. Bear in mind that the stakeholder communication plan is ongoing, and may change over time in response to evolving stakeholder requirements.

You will also need to consider the fact that different stakeholders have different objectives. Unfortunately, this can mean that stakeholders may disagree at times. To overcome this, we define a conflict resolution procedure that details how any conflict that arises is dealt with. It’s important to circulate this around your stakeholders prior to the project beginning, so that everyone is aware of how conflicts will be dealt with and they’re not taken by surprise if the procedure is implemented. Make sure to include the circulation of this document in your stakeholder management plan.

After the stakeholder communication plan and conflict resolution are drafted, you might also look to include some KPIs that will be reported to your stakeholders, and will reflect their objectives. These should be actively monitored, and updated as often as is feasibly possible. You could even come up with some internal KPIs that monitor the effectiveness of your stakeholder engagement. Consider things such as feedback rate, and sentiment of feedback received. This is a practical way to ensure that if your stakeholder engagement process is veering off at any point, then it can be quickly flagged and early intervention can occur.

Another internal factor to consider is areas of responsibility. This should also be detailed in the stakeholder management plan. You may wish to delegate specific tasks to individuals relating to the stakeholder engagement process. Alternatively, you can assign individuals with areas of responsibility, for them to independently come up with their own tasks. Whichever the case, the plan should include this, so that those individuals are fully aware of their responsibilities.

Lastly, once the project comes to an end, you may wish to conduct an evaluation of the stakeholder engagement activities that took place throughout. This is a chance to retrospectively look at how you’ve performed over the project, and make any changes for next time. Although this will not take place until the end, it’s useful to mention it in the stakeholder management plan, perhaps including what KPIs will be considered for evaluation. This solidifies trust in your process, demonstrating a desire to continually improve your stakeholder engagement.

Conclusion

This article has explained what stakeholders are, why they need to be managed, what the stakeholder management plan is and why it can be useful. You may be about to start a new project where additional stakeholders are involved. Perhaps you're taking on new stakeholders to an existing project. You may even just be looking to learn more for future reference. To help you on your journey, we will soon be releasing an in-depth guide on managing stakeholders, which will be available to download shortly.

Continuous improvement is a term that is used frequently in business nowadays. No doubt, that there is increasing attention being paid to the benefits that continuous improvement can offer. If you’re somebody who is looking to either adopt a new continuous improvement strategy, or build upon an existing one, you’ve probably heard about the importance of people and culture.

Culture is fast becoming recognised as one of the most important factors in an effective continuous improvement strategy. So how can we make sure our culture is conducive for continuous improvement? And what exactly does a continuous improvement culture look like?

In this article, we’re going to examine some of the key facets of continuous improvement, and how this relates to culture. We’ll outline what exactly a continuous improvement culture looks like. We’ll then discuss some of the ways you can maximise your continuous improvement culture. Before we talk about culture, it’s useful to first explain what exactly we mean by continuous improvement.

What is Continuous Improvement? 

Continuous improvement refers to the ongoing effort to improve all elements of an organization.

You may have heard of the term Kaizen. Kaizen is a japanese word - meaning ‘change for the better’. This is where continuous improvement has its roots, and it's easy to see why. Companies that have successfully embraced Kaizen include Toyota, Nestle and Lockhead Martin. Their results speak for themselves, and have certainly contributed to the growing popularity of continuous improvement.

A continuous improvement strategy will typically be made up of several smaller projects. Each project will usually focus on a specific area for improvement. Continuous improvement will often embrace incremental changes - small improvements which over time amount to significant amounts. Continuous improvement will also consider larger, more disruptive changes. We refer to these as radical changes.

One of the reasons that continuous improvement considers smaller, incremental changes is because of the compounding effect. As each improvement is made, the total productivity of the organisation grows. This means that each change has a proportionally greater impact than the last. This is why continuous improvement can be so attractive. Over a long period of time, the compounding effect leads to larger and larger improvements.

What does it have to do with Culture?

There are a few key factors that make up a successful continuous improvement strategy. Some of these include: technologies, organisational structure, resource dedication and strategic alignment. By far the most important however is people and culture.

When talking about culture, it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact definition. This is because culture in itself is an abstract concept that cannot be scientifically measured. Having said this, it is almost universally agreed that culture is a significant factor, so let’s explain more about what we mean by culture.

Culture is the values, beliefs, assumptions and ways of working that resonate throughout an organisation. You may have also heard the term ‘paradigm’. Paradigms refer to a set of ideas or beliefs which define a way of working - what some refer to as a ‘school of thought’.

Culture and paradigms are both significant and intertwined in an organisation. Culture underpins the attitudes found within individuals operating in organisations. Paradigms therefore are manifestations of the culture in an organisation. It's the paradigms that will have direct practical implications in ways of operating.

An example that illustrates the differences could be as follows. A company has a culture of ‘risk adversity’ due to the fact that it is highly regulated. Because of this underlying culture, a paradigm has formed where new technologies and practices are avoided.

Now, let's say that a new technology comes to market that has the potential to increase productivity by 10%. The fact that the culture of the company is averse to risks and therefore avoids new technology means they turn it down. The company has lost out on a significant productivity gain due to their culture.

Why does Culture Matter?

Hopefully the example gives you a taste of why culture is such an important part of continuous improvement. Though the example is specific, it highlights an overarching culture of ‘reluctance to change’ that can be found in many organisations.

It may be the case that organisations will see themselves as forward-thinking and open to change. Likewise, there may be individuals within the organisation who are open to change, where others may not be. Usually, this is not enough of a driving force to promote a true continuous improvement culture. This is partly because of how continuous improvement is often interpreted.

As previously mentioned, continuous improvement will often focus on incremental changes. These changes are often marginal, and won’t appear to be significant from the outset. As also mentioned, continuous improvement's key value offering is through the ‘compounding effect’, something that can take a long time to achieve. This often creates situations where continuous improvement is viewed as a cost centre. A risky activity, with little being returned on their investment.

The opinions of others in your organisation may initially be seen as an afterthought when conducting continuous improvement. Some may naively assume that their efforts will outway the negative opinions of others. This however, is rarely the case. Continuous improvement can be applied to any organisational function. Changes can often have a far flung impact that crosses departmental boundaries. Successful continuous improvement therefore requires commitment and participation from a variety of key stakeholders. It’s therefore vital to have these key stakeholders committed and ready to embrace continuous improvement.

It should also be noted that disruption to traditional ways of working is a natural part of continuous improvement. Like any new type of project, there is risk associated. This is usually expressed in cost or time. What is usually understated however is the disruption to traditional working practices. Humans are creatures of habit, and embracing change can be difficult when things have been that way for years. Having a culture that understands and embraces disruption of working patterns for a greater goal is therefore vital, if you want to keep your key stakeholders on side.

What Makes a Strong Continuous Improvement Culture?

So now we understand how culture can impact the success of a continuous improvement strategy, let's take a look at what a strong continuous improvement culture looks like. A strong continuous improvement culture will usually have the following:

One example of a company that has a strong continuous improvement culture is Amazon. By making continuous improvement a key part of their business strategy, they have successfully embedded a continuous improvement culture throughout the whole organisation.

The current culture of your organisation may not be exactly where you want it to be. This is fine, most won’t be. The next section will suggest some ways for you to integrate a positive continuous improvement culture into your strategy.

How can I Integrate Culture into my Continuous Improvement Strategy?

A strong and integrated continuous improvement culture, like many things, starts with education. Before embarking on your continuous improvement strategy, all individuals should be aware of the activities that are going to be undertaken and why.

Making individuals aware of the benefits of continuous improvement, and the long-term commitment that is required in order to realise said benefits is key. Measuring and communicating the results of your continuous improvement will help motivate stakeholders. Try to establish KPIs that hold relevance to your specific stakeholders.

Engaging with employees, and receiving feedback throughout is vital for 2 reasons. The first, is that feedback on projects from every corner of the organisation is valuable. There will always be blindspots in your own metrics. Areas that can be difficult to quantitatively measure may be picked up by different individuals in different departments. These factors can often play a major factor in a project's success, so considering this feedback is important.

The second, is that simply by engaging with employees in a way that values their opinion is likely to encourage buy-in. Employees are reassured that you’re working in their best interests, and are looking to qualify this by gathering their opinions. This can build stakeholder support, which as mentioned is critical to successful continuous improvement.

Lastly, we would suggest aiming to minimise disruption to working and risks associated with projects. This can be achieved through writing out a continuous improvement plan. In the plan, you may look to assign ‘pilot programmes’, which pilot continuous improvement projects over a small section of the organisation as a test case. This serves to gather data on whether the project is likely to be a success, while minimizing the risks or disruption. Having a plan is also a good idea in order to convince c-level stakeholders of the budgetary or resource requirements. It can also serve to guide your projects success routes, providing a benchmark to compare expected results to realised benefits.

Summary

In this article, we’ve looked at why culture is important for continuous improvement, what you should aim for, and some ways for how you can go about improving continuous improvement culture.

If there are any key takeaways from this, it should be that communication and building time into your strategy are the most important things. A continuous improvement manager's biggest task is often convincing others of the value of their work, so bear this in mind in everything you do.

At Intuitix, we help organisations realise the benefits of their continuous improvement projects. We then automate the process of communicating the relevant details to various stakeholders. If you’d like to find out more about what we do, head over to our contact us page, and one of our team will get back to you.

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