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Preparing your Impact Statement

A webinar designed to help applicants understand impact with guidance on what makes a good impact statement can be found here.

The statement should be as specific as possible and provide information that SFI and external reviewers will find helpful in assessing the potential impact of the proposed research activity. Innovative and creative approaches to engaging beneficiaries and creating impact are strongly encouraged. Appropriate milestones and deliverables associated with the potential impact should be indicated. SFI funds research in very disparate domains hence depending on the nature of the research, the impacts may be short-term, medium-term or longer-term. A credible implementation plan outlines the pathways to impact citing realistic timelines.

As examples, applicants should briefly outline previous indicators of the relevance of their research: 

- changes to the state of knowledge within a field
- where past group members have found employment
- industrial interest in their past or current work
- collaborative projects
- VC funding obtained
- companies formed
- problems solved
- documented changes to public policy or guidelines
- improvements in public health 

Impact statements should be written primarily in lay non-technical language, be as specific and comprehensive as possible and cover potential impacts by answering the following questions:

  • Who will benefit from this research?
  • How will they benefit from this research?

In thinking about potential impacts, the following points should be considered:

  • What is the activity’s potential impact on the development of science, technology and industry in Ireland and Ireland’s economy and competitiveness?
  • Are there potential international beneficiaries, collaborations with international industry or partner organisations? Letters of support may be included where appropriate.
  • How will industry collaborators enable increased impact? What supports are they offering? Have routes to commercialisation been considered?
  • What is the activity’s potential impact on the education and training of Ireland’s students, the career development of research team members and the infrastructure for further research and education, e.g. facilities and instrumentation?
  • What is the activity’s potential impact on society and the quality of life of Ireland’s citizens?
  • Are there potential beneficiaries within the private sector, public sector, third sector or any others (e.g. professional or practitioner groups, charities or patient groups)? 
  • Applicants are encouraged to give due regard to the SFI Agenda 2020 and the Report of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group March 2012, and other relevant publications.
  • How will the potential impacts from your research best be realised?
  • How do you propose the impact from your project could be measured?

Common characteristics of High Quality Impact Statements

  • Good knowledge of the relevant beneficiaries of the proposed research and the needs of the sector(s)
  • Clear description of how the applicant intends to reach and engage with the beneficiaries of the research, including clear deliverables and milestones
  • Genuine inclusion of appropriate collaborators in the research programme, especially in the application area of the research if interdisciplinary in nature. 
  • Involvement of beneficiaries and end users from the outset taking this input into the design of the research programme. Industry collaborators may not be a requirement but where appropriate is encouraged.
  • Brief description of track record and relevant accomplishments for knowledge exchange and impact-generating activities in the context of the proposed research project
  • Good knowledge of national priorities and activities in the relevant areas
  • Applicant demonstrates clear commitment to maximising the impact of their research

In summary, a high quality impact statement will include a credible implementation plan outlining pathways to impact citing realistic timelines and stakeholders.

Common characteristics of Poor Impact Statements

  • Statement is vague, lacks specificity and clear deliverables
  • Activities are not project specific, but are routine activities for academic research positions
  • Lack of inclusion of appropriate collaborators in the research programme, especially in the application area of the research, if interdisciplinary in nature. Vague, non-committal letters of support
  • Too much focus on track record rather than what will be done as part of the proposed research project
  • Lack of knowledge of beneficiaries, likely impacts and appropriate mechanisms for realising the potential impacts
  • Too focused on outputs for their own sake rather than their contribution to impact generation
  • Unrealistic expectations (not to be confused with setting ambitious goals)

In summary, a poor quality impact statement lacks a credible implementation plan.

What should not be included?

As outlined above, on their own the following are not impacts but are considered research outputs:

Publications; presenting research at a conference

While the dissemination of research output is very important, in articulating how it will lead to the utilisation of the outputs, applicants should be specific as to why that publication or conference presentation is important, how it ensures the potential beneficiaries have the opportunity to engage with the research, and how this will be followed up.

Invention disclosures; patent filings

Without being exploited, patents are not impacts, thus applicants should articulate why that intellectual property is important and how it will potentially be utilised subsequently.

How will Impact Statements and impact be reviewed and evaluated?

The requirements for Impact Statements will vary from programme to programme and will be based on the objectives of a particular programme and the specific call. Details of Impact Statement requirements and how they will be reviewed will be included in the call document for each particular programme call. In nearly all cases, SFI will use international experts with specific/documented interests in impact evaluation from other jurisdictions to review and rank the impact statements of scientifically excellent projects. These impact reviewers have included Company R&D Directors, Heads of Translational Institutes, Senior Technology Transfer Professionals, Investors in scientific/technology early-stage companies, for example.