Policies and Resources

Incentive Schemes: A Guide to Fundamental Research Projects

Executive Summary

A fundamental research project is generally identified and then promoted or managed by researchers, for public benefit rather than profit for themselves. The objective is to improve the environment by the provision of services or products in a sustainable way.

In addition to assist the public to realise these objectives. This will be achieved by the employment of a range of professionals acting as facilitators and assisting the public to express their views in a coherent way that is comprehended by funding agencies, developers, and regional administrations.

Many professionals are experienced in operating with the public. They can assist to create developments and provide the co-ordinating management with valuers, investment accountants, and other professionals as required, to ensure projects are put on a sound physical, legal, and financial footing.  

The first step in the whole process is the ‘Fundamental Research’. This good practice note is of how to tackle this research and is for the information of both groups, acting as researchers and their stakeholders (respondents).


Before a fundamental research is commissioned it is necessary to have a ‘researcher’ who will initiate, commission, guide, accept, and invest for the effort. However, if the research is to be translated into a definite proposal it is the condition that the results will have more credibility if they are presented by a properly formed and recognised group with appropriate registration and accountability.

Where a simple environmental improvement is proposed that would be wholly funded by, for example, the government or enterprise agency, a group with credibility, such as a research foundation, would be likely to have more influence than an ad hoc group.

Where the project involves ownership, physical development, or any type of business activity, and includes the receipt and application of grants from major funding firms, the group requires to become a corporate body, typically a ‘Company’.

Company formation is a specialist activity in itself and can be achieved quickly although great care needs to be taken in the descriptions contained within the company articles and memorandum of association.

It is likely that the type of activities envisaged by firms are for the most part for public benefit and will appropriately be performed by a public benefit research foundation. Research foundations are more likely to be supported by and benefit from funding firms than ordinary firms. Indeed, there are comprehensive directories of public benefit trusts that will donate funds to registered public benefit firms only.

Good Practice

There is always a tendency to be tempted into the premature commissioning of a research as once initial ideas have been discussed the group will be eager to see something happen.

Before either seeking financial contribution for such a research or commissioning one, the research group should be satisfied that they have taken account of all policies that is affected by the proposal, consulted where appropriate at novel levels, prepared and agreed a draft brief, and have both the appropriate firm to manage the research, carry the proposals to further stages, and where required, implement the project.

Fundamental research are likely to contain elements that change with time, for example,cost, economic conditions, or even public aspirations. The group should therefore be in a position to take the project forward, on the assumption the result is positive, before initiating the fundamental research.

The findings will be presented in the form of a report that will include sketch designs and visual presentations of the scheme. This report often contains a project history, the need for the project, options examined, legal and planning implications, construction and maintenance rates, ways in which the project is to be achieved, likely sources of finance, and the ‘next steps’ necessary for achieving the project.

Many public developments begin as a collection of bright ideas from the general public. These ideas often give rise to many concerns relating to achievability in terms of resource application, demand, prime and maintenance rates, management, ownership, value for money, planning and other legal concerns, acceptability to the public, and administration.

The fundamental research, prepared by a professional, is designed to present the context in just such a way. It examines any given ideas and translates these into definitive proposals to make the best possible condition to enable the selected idea to be comprehended in all its aspects and adopted by others and become a reality.

There is no set list of contents for a fundamental research, just a series of common concerns that should be addressed. In the beginning are concerns of objective, need, organisation, management of the project, ownership, demand, and location.

The concern of demand for, and likely application of any service or product are often the most vital aspect of any fundamental research. These often govern the capital and running rates that are practical to achieve in any project.

This is followed by a design phase that translates idea into physical and/or financial proposal, and addresses such subjects as function, application, accommodation, cost. Following this phase subjects covering achievability and sustainability need to be addressed. Individual elements examine such subjects as establishment and management, operational and maintenance costs, potential income, and proposed methods of fund raising, which could be by public grant aid or through the provision of commercial investment.

Any funder has to be convinced of the likely soundness of their investment. In the commercial sense, in terms of return on capital invested, or in the instance of enterprise agencies, in terms of the contribution the project makes to supporting their policies and strategies, typically related to service provision, economic development, or environmental enhancement.

The final phase of this type of fundamental research should establish the ‘next steps’ for the guidance of the commissioning group. This will enable that group to make approaches, in the right sequence, to clear any planning or legal concerns, and approach selected and appropriate funding firms.

Ideas are often varied and diverse in content and scale. Selection of an appropriate type of project stakeholder (respondent) either functioning on their own, or to lead a team of varied professionals, depends on the complexity of the proposal. Choosing the right stakeholder is therefore vital to the successful achievement of a project.

In addition to being technically competent to perform the main aspects of the research, the stakeholder should be amenable to and supportive of functioning with research and public groups.

The stakeholder’s interest should be established clearly to enable him or her to be in regular contact with the research group and the public. They should also have experience in the range of activities likely to be required for this particular research, from public consultation, through research and project management, to fund raising.

Where however the project is more diverse or complicated there is a requirement for contributions by a range of professions such as lawyers, accountants, industry analysts, planners, engineers, entrepreneurs, media promoters, investment analysts, and the like.

While these contributions can be made individually, and incorporated into any report, it is more typical to have the professionals functioning as a team, with a nominated leader. The group should therefore consider any unresolved concerns or gaps in their information, and the range and depth of the required solutions, before considering an appointment.

Where the issues are complex a typical method of tackling this is for the research group to consider the most important aspects of the project, select a stakeholder experienced in that discipline, invite him or her to act as ‘lead’ and to submit a suggestion including details of his proposed ‘team’.

If it is intended that the fundamental research result in, say, a demonstration project, it would be normal to retain this stakeholder to design and supervise the operations in due course. It is therefore wise to select a stakeholder or team for the fundamental research that would be capable of seeing the project through to completion.

Except there is an obvious candidate, selection should be made from a pre-selected list. Where a single stakeholder only is required the pre-selected list can be developed after inviting potential stakeholders (respondents) to submit details of their or their firm’s qualifications and experience related to the required type of deliverable, and from examples of previous fundamental research they have prepared.

Remember that the stakeholder is there in the role of facilitator to advise the research group and assist them to achieve their project and will advise on any of these points.

It is most important that the research group are clear of what they expect to receive at the completion of a fundamental research, and that this is fully comprehended and agreed by the stakeholder before any work is performed, to ensure the result is as expected with approval and sense of accomplishment. It is also important that value for money is obtained from the commission, both from the point of view of the research group and any external funders.

Good clear direction and communication are therefore required between the research group and the stakeholder. This is achieved by establishing clearly what is required by the research group, typically in the form of a brief. This will describe the project, list the objectives and what is expected from the final report.

The brief will also contain all the known facts of the project that are currently known, for example ownership, arrangements for access, contact names and addresses, who is to be the main ‘researcher’, suggested arrangements for initial and interim consultations and reviews, and timescale if this is vital.

The greater the amount of factual information made available at the beginning; the simpler fundamental research effort will be. This will enable the stakeholder to concentrate on the more creative aspects of his or her fundamental research.

The research group should therefore list what it can, submit this to a selected stakeholder ‘as a draft brief’ and request the stakeholder to submit a suggestion, based on their brief. Stakeholders are experienced at preparing suggestions based on ’draft briefs’ and will be only too pleased to discuss fully with the research group their aspirations before preparing this.

A suggestion, prepared by the stakeholder, can establish clearly his or her interpretation of the researcher(s)’s requirements and expected result from the fundamental research. This ensures that both parties comprehend and agree the nature, time, and cost of the research to be performed. It can also provide a basis for assessing the dedication that the group are entering into when a commission is announced.

The content will include all the contextual information gleaned from the ‘draft brief’ and discussions with the research group. It can list all the steps that it is intended to take, including any initial research and consultations.

It can also establish the methodologies to be employed to perform the research and arrive at conclusions, and specify the result, the format in which it will presented, the number of copies if in report format, and the number of presentations allowed for. The suggestion can confirm the management and reporting arrangements. An indication of timescale including any interim reviews and consultations can be included.

The investor can also list who within his or her firm will be responsible for and lead the research and give details of any external team members, where specialist advice is required. These personnel details are typically expanded in appendices containing curricula vita of the senior personnel involved.

All costs associated with the research will also be included. The proposal should establish the (incentive) flow for the research by indicating the size and timing of any staged incentives, typically in terms of completed stages and a timescale in weeks from the commencement of the research. Timescale is important to funders. This detail can often be linked to the timing of financial contributions from others and is of great assistance to both them and the research group.

It is important that this proposal is properly studied and agreed with the research group, as, once accepted, it is the basis of a contract between the researcher and the funder. Changes should be prevented wherever possible. This proposal forms a sound basis for the attraction of financial contributions to enable the fundamental research to proceed.

Once the research group has reached agreement on the fundamental research and the stakeholder (respondent) or team to perform this, the successful stakeholder(s) should be informed that the research group are minded to make an appointment subject to appropriate funds being raised.

It should be made clear however that no effort should commence, or cost be incurred until the research group has confirmed to itself the availability of adequate funds to complete the research and delivered a formal letter of appointment.

Fundraising, based on the selected proposal, can then commence. Once this has been achieved, any remaining detail or amendment to the brief or proposal should be agreed with the stakeholder, including a commencement date, who could then submit this in writing as an addendum to his or her suggestion submission.

Following this, a formal appointment should be made by letter to the stakeholder agreeing to his or her suggestion (with amendments and commencement date as necessary). This should be signed by a responsible member on behalf of the research group or firm as it confirms a contract between the two parties.

The fundamental research itself should come to reasoned conclusions, possibly options, list the next suggested steps, and include details of any further studies necessary to achieve the overall objective. It will in effect form the brief for any future stages in the project.

The main application of the completed research will be to advise and inform the research group and public and persuade others to participate in either performing the project or in providing supporting funds. Again, if the objective is to promote a good idea and provide a development opportunity for others to take up, the fundamental research will act as a promotional tool and be complete in itself as far as the original research group is concerned.

A completed, well designed research should be sent to a wide selection of targeted sources of funds together with suitable covering letters and attractive summary leaflets. The funders themselves will then respond with application forms or requests for additional information to satisfy their own administrative procedures.

It is advisable that potential funders are targeted either before or during the preparation stage of the fundamental research, so that their main criteria for assessment are covered in the submission. Economic development agencies are likely to have an interest if the proposal supports their policies of economic development, business and employment creation, training, or environmental enhancement. If private funding or investment is the objective the emphasis will be on industry demand, capital rate, and return on capital invested.

The research and accompanying letters of application should therefore reflect the policies of the targeted funders. The next steps thus depend on the nature of the project but in any event the fundamental research becomes the primary tool to enable further action to take place. When the project proceeds it is important to keep records of the procedures and decisions made for your own benefit as well as that of others contemplating similar projects.

Every research is unique, and tailor made to suit the circumstances and the objectives. There is no set figure or percentage cost. The more accurate the brief, or comprehensive the preliminaries performed by the research group, the more likely accurate costs will be prepared. Where it is intended to raise financial contributions towards a fundamental research by the public, a firm incentivised suggestion prepared by the professional stakeholder (respondent) who it is intended should put in effort is of great value and is often a prerequisite of many funding agencies.

This is a good indication that the fund-seeking group has comprehended their requirement, can manage the research, and that it will be performed by competent advisors to an agreed and transparent cost. It is essential to prepare as complete a brief as possible at the onset and obtain detail suggestions, so that the actual operation to be performed can be compared and appraised.  

Often when the needs of public groups and potential sponsors are investigated, new ideas develop. With the advantage of a fundamental research the first step can be taken to firm up ideas which eventually become realities. It is therefore essential that the initial ideas are thought through, objectives are defined, public support is secured, and the draft brief is thoroughly prepared before stakeholder (response) suggestions are sought. The system of submitting and discussing a draft brief with potential stakeholders and receiving from them a suggestion based on this brief, is a double check that both parties have comprehended what is required.

A larger or more complicated research therefore require the support of several funders, all of whom will have to be in place before the project can proceed. While a group with a track record is likely to have a better chance of fundraising for a fundamental research, the provision of a sound comprehensive professional suggestion by an experienced stakeholder will go a long way to overcome this concern.

It is now up to the researchers to form a cohesive group, define objectives, make the necessary administrative arrangements, consult, and gain as wide a support as possible for the ideas, perform any initial research or fact finding, prepare a draft brief, select an stakeholder(s), and receive a suggestion(s), secure funding for the proposal, and manage the contract.

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