Proposal Development

Writing a winning proposal is a strategic process that requires thorough research, compliance with rules and requirements, and clear and concise content. We recognize each team and each proposal is different. We offer an array of services and will work with you to determine your needs and adapt our support accordingly. Explore the resources below to find out how the Office of the ADR can position you to do your best work along each step of the process.

Engaging with the Office of the ADR can begin before the sponsor releases a solicitation. In this phase, our team will help you assess goodness-of-fit between the research concept and sponsor priorities and identify potential teaming partners.

  • Learn about the sponsor: review strategic plans, understand their mission, build relationships with program officers.
  • Learn about the competition: assess our assets and solution relative to others working in the field.
  • Build the team: identify teammates within Grainger, across the University, at other academic institutions, and at non-academic entities (e.g., industry partners, government agencies, non-governmental organizations).

Once the solicitation is active, proposal development activities accelerate. To help you properly plan, prepare, and produce your proposal, our office should be contacted at least four weeks before the sponsor’s deadline. In addition to the services identified above for pre-solicitation, activities in this phase may include:

Proposal management: Get assistance coordinating all the proposal elements so that you can focus on the research strategy and technical nuances of the proposal.

  • Prepare compliance matrix and proposal checklist
  • Create document templates and shell documents, including outlines, relevant instructions and review criteria, and page budgets
  • Prepare a proposal timeline and manage task/writing assignments
  • Facilitate team meetings
  • Arrange interim review of content: pink (strategy), red (technical/programmatic), gold (compliance)
  • Coordinate graphic design services
  • Interface with local business managers and SPA

Content development: Begin to put words on the page. Beyond the technical narrative, many additional components may be required to develop a responsive, compliant, and compelling proposal.

  • Draft supplementary documents (e.g., post-doc plan, communications plan, data management plan, project management or multi-investigator plan)
  • Draft, circulate, and collect collaboration letters
  • Draft administration letters and facilitate signatures (e.g., dean, VCRI, provost)
  • Provide data analysis support for grant proposals including enrollment, graduation rates, admissions, research dollar amounts.
  • Edit, proofread, and format the documents

Content assessment: Strengthen your proposal by getting input from external reviewers prior to submittal.

  • Review the proposal against sponsor’s merit and compliance criteria
  • Assemble external reviewers
    • Pink team: strategy review
    • Red team: technical and programmatic review
    • Gold team: compliance review for fatal flaws
  • Collect and synthesize feedback into actionable recommendations

Put your best foot forward for the final evaluations.

  • Develop visuals/graphics for the presentation
  • Conduct technical & programmatic reviews, using internal and external reviewers
  • Strategize who’s in the room (team, partners, etc)
  • Coach presenters
  • Provide on-site logistics support & event planning


The Office of the ADR will offer advice for any proposal and answer questions about any opportunity for all PIs in engineering departments (i.e., Grainger, ChBE, or ABE). Because of our limited capacity, however, we will prioritize assistance for complex proposals such as those with multiple investigators and institutions, proposals to non-traditional sponsors, proposals with large funding requests, and proposals of strategic interest to the college.


Reach out to an ADR team member if interested or contact us with questions.

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