A few weeks ago I posted at The Scientist blog about a new jewelery store that had opened up near my office … and I was concerned that this jewelry store was headed for a sad fate if they didn’t soon figure out their “Unique Selling Proposition (USP).” The USP is that unique value that a business brings to the market to differentiate it from other businesses.
Grants must have a USP as well. In the current environment, “me too” proposals don’t cut it. There has to be something unique and powerful about what you’re proposing to do, or it won’t stand out enough in order to receive that 1 in 10 vote that is good enough for funding.
Yesterday I visited the jewelry store in question, and met the owners. It is a young fellow in his late 20’s, and a woman of about the same age who appears to be pregnant who is his wife. They are both sweet folks – but when I went in, the store was dead quiet. It reconfirmed what I wrote before, only with a personal touch. These are now real faces, young people with a dream, and if they don’t figure it out, that dream may die a quick death.
This is happening in science, too. Young scientists struggle to get funding for their work, and eventually throw in the towel. They may see senior scientists struggle, and say to themselves: “why should I bother?”
It is brutal, but there are solutions:
1. Take personal responsibility. Yes, I know that’s an alien concept – but with both the jeweler and with many young scientists, doing a better job of things like identifying and developing that Unique Selling Proposition would make an enormous difference.
2. Do a better job of communicating the value of science to society. This would lead to a turnaround in the slow, steady decline in public support for science.
If you want more help identifying your USP, you can apply for the waiting list for Grant Foundry