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One Stage or Two? Funding Application Processes Reviewed


Application processes vary from one call to another. Generally, application processes tend to have one or two calls. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but is it possible to say which one is better in the end?

How do one stage and two stage application processes work?

Funding application processes vary between different funders, based on, for example, duration, form, and scope. Also, these processes can vary based on the amount of stages in the process. Generally, application processes are either carried out as one or two stage processes. Both application process types are used in national and international calls.

In one stage applications, the applicant writes only one application, the full application, which is then evaluated by the funder. The application is then either approved or rejected. Correspondingly, in two stage application there are two separate calls. The first is a call for proposals and the second is a call for final applications.

In the first round, the applicant drafts a project idea document that is then evaluated by the funder. The second call is targeted only for the short-listed applicants, whose project ideas were accepted to the second round. During the second call, a final full application, similar to the application in a one stage process, is drafted and then evaluated by the funder.

Sometimes the application processes might include a consultation round, during which it is possible to get an appraisal from the funder on the quality and eligibility of the project idea before the application is finalized and sent to be evaluated. This gives the applicant an opportunity to either discontinue the application process or to revise the proposal so that it is better suited for the call.

Advantages and disadvantage of the two different application processes

During one stage application processes, the applicant writes the full proposal right away. Thus, there is no need to write two separate applications. Because there is only one call round, the results of the call usually come faster compared to two stage processes.

The largest downside of one stage application processes is that, if the application is not eligible or suitable for the call and does not receive funding, the amount of wasted work and lost resources is considerable. That is why one stage application processes could especially benefit from consultations during the early stages of the process.

Two stage application processes require more work, and it takes longer to get the results of the call. Due to this, it also takes longer to start the implementation of the approved project. One downside of two stage processes is that since the process takes more time, it can be difficult to get partners, especially from the world of business. Participating in a two-stage application requires more of a long-term commitment and business operators do not necessarily want to plan their operations so far ahead, even more so if they operate in a rapidly advancing industry field.

The biggest advantage of two stage application processes is the fact that, if the project idea of the applicant is not suitable for funding or there are other, much better ideas for the call, the applicant does not get invited to the second call round. This way the applicant does not waste as much time and resources as would happen in a one stage process.

If an applicant is invited to the second round, the first-round project idea document can usually be utilized when drafting the second-round application, which reduces the amount of work. Yet, it should be noted that not all applications that get invited to the second round are approved for funding and thus, for those applicants, the amount of time and resources wasted during the whole two stage application process is very large.

Is it possible to determine which application process is better?

The best application process often depends on the situation. If there is a need to get business partners to commit themselves to the project, or the subject of the project is especially topical and thus, there is a need to be able to launch the project as soon as possible, one stage application processes can be better.

Both application processes have downsides but also their own redeeming qualities.

On the other hand, if the full application process is going to be laborious due to, for example, a large consortium, large budget, or a complicated research plan, two stage applications can be preferable, since you can often get some feedback from the first call and can immediately discontinue the work if the first-round application is rejected. Yet it should be noted that consultations performed during one stage application processes work in pretty much the same way.

If an application gets rejected, it can be further developed and submitted to another call to the same or another funder. Additionally, it might be easier to develop a full application than an idea document. Naturally this applies to full applications in both one stage and two stage application processes. The development potential of a first call proposal of a two stage application process is not necessarily as good.

Both application processes have downsides but also their own redeeming qualities. In the end, perhaps one stage application processes are better, but only if they include a consultation round. A one stage process is faster and requires less work. Yet, without the consultation round, the risk that the application is not suitable for the call and thus will not receive funding is greater, than in the second call round of a two stage application process.

It is possible to assess the pros and cons of the different application processes also from the funder’s point of view. Eventually, it is much more laborious for the evaluators to review a lot of full applications, since especially application processes without a consultation round can yield hundreds of full applications, if the processes are one stage only. On the other hand, two stage application processes require that the evaluators participate in the process twice within a specific time frame.

The preferences are naturally dependent on the evaluators themselves, but since the evaluation work is usually done alongside the evaluators’ main job, it might be better if the work is less laborious and spread over a longer timeline.

Writer Vappu Kunnaala-Hyrkki

Writer works as an RDI Specialist at Xamk, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences.