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NHMRC Ideas Grants: How can you wow your assessors with your innovation?



The objective of the NHMRC Ideas Grants is to fund innovative and creative research to pursue new and slightly risky ideas, which if successful, may lead to important or major impacts in health and medicine. The expression ‘shift current paradigms’ in the NHMRC’s definition of innovation and creativity trips a lot of applicants up. In the philosophy of science, a paradigm shift involves a radical reconceptualisation of a phenomenon, such as the shift from a geocentric (earth-centred) to a heliocentric (sun-centred) universe or the shift from a miasma (bad air) theory of disease to the germ theory. These sorts of paradigm shifts are rare and almost certainly not what the NHMRC has in mind. When trying to wow the NHMRC Ideas Grant assessors, it is best to put this more purist definition aside in favour of a more tempered one.


In this context your research needs to be something different; a new idea that is well supported by previous research and previous impacts in the field (ideally your own). Innovation can mean doing something for the first time or doing something in a new way and applying it to a different research area. Sometimes, for example applicants produce a huge body of work in one field and innovatively apply it to another. Think about this in the context of your own research field because what is considered innovative can be different depending on your perspective and the field of research you work in.

Innovative and creative research produces knowledge that will provide a new and different perspective. So, it is not just about doing research because it hasn’t been done before but about justifying how the proposed research is different from current approaches, why it needs to be done and whether the potential return on investment is worthwhile (significance).


For example, if I tell you I am researching a particular drug treatment for muscle disease in zebrafish that has been previously successful in adult mice, you could quite rightly determine this does not have the ‘wow’ factor and is not innovative since the drug has already been tested in a different vertebrate model. However, if I tell you we can:


  • track zebrafish muscle regeneration from embryonic to adult stages live under the microscope to better understand the mechanisms of repair and why this group of drugs are effective

  • use zebrafish disease models with different parts of the muscle that fluorescently glow and are easily identifiable under the microscope to tell us which cells are responsible for regeneration.


And that none of this information is available by studying mice, we suddenly have the ‘wow’ factor. Therefore it is much easier for an assessor to understand the innovation of creatively applying this drug intervention to answer a new and important problem.


Want to know more about explaining the innovation and creativity of your project? Book a review with us by emailing hello@thegrantedgroup.com.au or check out our guides.



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