The Grant Crevasse

 

The Grant Crevasse


Volume 6 Issue 7 News & Resources | July 2013

 

(1) About CREST

I’m in the midst of looking for new research funding to sustain the researchers (i.e. students) and the group’s activities. Recently I stumbled upon an invitation for grant application from CREST-Malaysia; a government-industry initiative. Apparently, CREST has its own domain of research topics. Semi-conductor, Industrial Electronics, Solar, Opto-Electronics are the four main focus areas under the CREST grant (http://www.crest.my) provided by the Malaysian government. The CREST grant research funding opportunity is based on close collaboration between the university and industry with the intent to strengthen the Electrical and Electronics industry in Malaysia. So far, about RM24mil has been disbursed for about 35 collaborative projects for the stated purpose above. I am very sure the recipients have put so many an efforts to finally get the grants. Nothing comes free. One must invest something in order to get something at the other end. Actually, there is another research focus that CREST will support, and the research focus is called OTHERS. Well, now I know where I fit in – in OTHERS. Frankly, OTHERS seemed to be a bit too broad, and basically I see the chance of getting the grants under this category will approach NIL. The next application cycle will end on the 31st of July 2013. We will see. We will see whether the application form will be ready and suitable (i.e. ready) enough for submission.

(2) Grant openings?

As a researcher, I’m always on the prowl for new grant opening to get more and more research funding. Normally the rush for funding applications will arise as the funding coffer gets shallower. New input is seriously needed. And, any opportunity to get new funding is greatly welcome. The need for financial support in conducting high-end research work should not be underestimated. The financial health can make or break highly novel and critical research effort. Sometimes because of the limited funding, the lead researcher has to take very difficult decisions. Should the human resource side be made leaner? Should the critical equipment purchasing be delayed? Should an application be made to the grant provider for an extension of the project duration? Should we just abandon the project? Very tough decision to be made, and where one would not hope to be in. Well, in research we always face tough questions, and we always make tough decisions. This is normal and there is no way around it.

(3) Hot topic

One major issue in research application is the complexity of the research problems and the urgent need for solutions. There should be a marked edge to the research efforts proposed, especially, the real life problems that it tries to tackle, and hopefully, solve, i.e. the impacts it will make. The research solution will also carry the ability to trigger other derivatives industries and its accompanying unique products. From the academic point of view, the potential research output should also bring about publications in reputed journals and also media coverage of its novelty. These outputs will spur further interest in the field and will encourage more researchers to work on solving any related problems. The industry and, later, the society will benefit from new technologies or approaches developed. Hopefully, life will be better and everything else will be fine. In a nutshell, the potential research topic must be of obvious use to the society, and should not be something the opposite.

(4) The team

Team composition for market-driven research collaboration must be considered carefully. The short time-frame of the research duration and the need for expert human resources to work on the project would be very critical. The project may not be able to afford newbies in doing research. The pace would be higher in order to match the pace of the industry. The team needs to catch the marketing window and must tune the project scheduled to cater for the commercial window. Obviously, the university’s researchers and engineers in industry worked at different pace. In an industry-based collaborative research project, all parties must be able to appreciate and compensate for the misalignment of the rate of delivery, and learn to optimize on the processes and also the desired output. Bottom-line, the expected research output must be acquired, and to be completely done at the end of the proposed timeline.

(5) Making use

As much as possible, one should always capitalize on whatever equipment or components available in-house. The act of buying unnecessary things may even jeopardize the project as a whole. Suitable facilities may exist in-house or the industry herself. One should explore first before jumping and buying. One main reason is that the high-end boards also need trained personal in using them. And buying high tech equipment with no expertise to handle it will mean trouble for the research project. The right man for the right equipment – this is the mantra. As much as possible we should use common equipment which has been developed using common components and boards. These factors will make it easier and faster in trouble-shooting and fixing in case there is a need for it. Research efforts often are bogged down due limitations and constraints in various aspects for system development, testing and validation. In developing trouble-free research project execution, the planning part must be thought-out carefully so that the potential problems can be circumvented much earlier.

(6) Summary

Initiating, planning, executing collaborative research projects have always been difficult and riddled with problems. The project leader must be always cool-headed, very objective and focus and know when to push and when to let go. The most important thing is to be realistic and only promised what is already achievable and not something which is still in the idea stage. Good luck! “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose" – Zola Neale Hurston


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.