MCERF's research process is straightforward and grounded in our belief in and reliance on our many industry partners.
How Funded Research Topics Are Determined
The Partnership Enterprise - MCERF has many loyal and generous financial contributors, the largest of whom, around 60, are those who have given over $100,000 to the Foundation. They comprise a group called the "Partnership Enterprise", and as major stakeholders, Enterprise members have an active voice in defining MCERF's research agenda. Through a combination of formal meetings and less formal, but no less valuable, working relationships, the Partnership Enterprise serves the Foundation as the "brain trust" or "early warning radar" of our industry. They bring forward the industry's concerns and challenges to the Foundation, and they vigorously debate the priorities that should be given to the various issues. This is one of the key ways in which industry-critical topics are brought to MCERF for funding consideration.
- The Board of Trustees may publish a Request for Proposals (RFP) to an extensive mailing list of academics and industry consultants.
- Meetings with other groups of friends and partners, such as MCAA's Manufacturer/Supplier Council, the Mechanical-Electrical Academic Consortium, various legislative or allied association, can spur ideas for MCERF research topics or joint-venture research opportunities.
- Unsolicited proposals frequently arrive at the MCERF office. Such proposals are normally brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees at its next scheduled meeting. If the Trustees would like to give a proposal further consideration, the principal who submitted the proposal will be contacted and asked to submit additional information.
Some characteristics that have led to successful funding of MCERF research projects in the past are:
- The mechanical contracting and service industry prefers "applied" research, that is, research to solve specific problems or take advantage of specific opportunities.
- Projects that are relatively short in duration (e.g. achievable in a year), or that can be accomplished in discrete stages or phases, rather than longer projects with less definitive goals, are preferred.
- Projects are expected to include a marketing or audience distribution plan as part of the project.
- Complete and well-conceived budgets are required.
Regardless of how and where a project idea originates, all projects that receive MCERF funding must be formally approved by the Foundation's Board of Trustees.
How Projects Are Developed
Once a project has been approved by the MCERF Board of Trustees, a volunteer task force of industry experts is assembled to shepherd the project from development through deployment.
- The task force will consist of persons who have extensive knowledge and/or enthusiasm for the given research area; these may be contractors, service representatives, or manufacturer/suppliers. In some cases, they may even include affiliated association executives or students.
- The task force is a resource for the research principal; they do not conduct the research, but they provide reality checks and serve as a source of other contacts and information for the principal. They are especially helpful in finding groups or individuals to serve as focus groups, or as objective reviewers.
- The principal/task force team normally has a mixture of live meetings, conference calls, and call-as-needed scenarios.
- Depending on the timing and agreed-upon delivery date of the given project, the principal may be required to present, or assist in the presentation of, the final product at an MCAA national convention (a preferred "roll out" venue for many new MCERF products).
- The principal may be required to present interim or final findings to the MCERF trustees or other industry body.
- The advisory task force will include one or more MCERF/MCAA national staff members.