The story of Impacter

Published at 2023-07-27 by Ana Rodrigues

Starting a software company without knowing how to write code, but with knowledge about the impact policies in funding schemes: that’s the start of Impacter, in 2017.

After working with their company IDfuse for universities, researchers and funding agencies for a few years, Tijmen and Paul started thinking on how to make the work of the support offices in universities easier. In the numerous workshops they hosted about societal impact in grant writing they noticed a few things:

*Researchers had difficulties on what to write in the impact chapter in grant proposals;

*These difficulties seemed quite universal across disciplines;

*Grants offices spent a lot of time and money explaining the fundamentals of writing an impact chapter.

The basic idea was there: build a tool that would highlight the most common pitfalls in the proposal. The tool would empower the grants offices to focus their support on how to fix these issues in the proposal instead of explaining them. Simultaneously it would entitle the researchers to get instant feedback whenever they wanted. After defining the ambition, the next step was to start learning how to build a platform that could do this. During these first years the developments were financed by continuing consultancy for universities and workshops for researchers about the societal impact of science. With a very basic first version of the software, the Utrecht University (UU) agreed upon a pilot project to both test the workflow and define milestones to add features to the platform. The pilot was successful (Impacter users performed better than non-users and the users liked the platform) which led to the UU and UMCU to be the first customers.

Fast forwarding to today: Impacter doesn’t host impact workshops anymore, but really became a software company. With the SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, European universities can enable their researchers to get feedback for their Horizon Europe proposals. Dutch universities can also use Impacter for the Talent Scheme of NWO. But that’s not all, Impacter is also the technology partner of ResearchConnect to improve the search for relevant funding opportunities with the ‘active learning’ and ‘search by abstract’ modules. Impacter is also involved in several data consulting projects of which the most interesting one for the grants offices is the matchmaking of all researchers in an institute (based on their publications) with draft versions of funding opportunities in the Horizon programs. This is usually a manual task that takes ages to do for just a handful of researchers. Impacter can do the matchmaking in less time for all researchers in the CRIS of the university.

In the future, Impacter should be a platform that is used by several European institutes to improve the grant writing process. And, in order to get there, we are always interested in learning more about the challenges in grants offices, to discuss together if and how the technology of Impacter could be a way to improve. So, whether you have ideas on how to improve the Impacter platform or the work in the grants office, are interested in fund matchmaking or just have a question for us…don’t hesitate to reach out!