In this lesson, we are going to deal with those elements of a proposal that are so general that you are bound to find them, maybe with a different name, in almost all cases. These elements that we are going to tackle are: - The “starting point” of the proposal. What it stems from. - The goal. What the proposal aims to achieve. - The state of the art on the topic, which basically means acknowledging there is a world out there doing something related to what you mean to do. Please mind that these are not, necessarily, paragraphs’ titles: they are topics. Things that you are supposed to deal with. Even if there is not a paragraph called “Goal”, you do have to say what your goal is. And same for the other points. Let us start with the starting point. Where does your proposal start from? Starting points can be of different kinds: for example, you can start from an issue. A serious issue, affecting society. And… there you are, ready to solve it. Picture the issue vividly, show how serious it is, reinforce your argument with data, make the reviewer feel the pressure: this needs to be solved, we owe it to humanity. For example, a project I was involved in started off with the presentation of an issue: ageing population in Europe. People are living longer, they are at risk of cognitive decay, health-care systems are not ready to tackle high numbers, the costs of assistance are rising… and… there we were, looking for a solution. Another possible starting point, similar to the first but less “dramatic”, is the identification of a gap. Although a lot of research has been devoted to the discovery of the wheel, quite surprisingly none has yet addressed the study of how to make it actually turn. And again, here you are, ready to investigate this. And again, if the description is convincing, it stimulates a sort of “call of duty”: there is something missing, we must fill this gap. (This, by the way, is a very good starting point also for scientific papers). Another possible starting point is an opportunity. Let us make an example: 5G, the next generation of mobile broadband, will provide users with an incredible connectivity at super low latency. A project I currently am involved in is all about the opportunities 5G can offer, considering various use-cases: tourists, citizens of a smart city, the health care system, the working place. The whole point of the whole project is to “envision the future”, based on the opportunity 5G is offering us. Let's move on, to another point: the goal. What we aim at with our project. The goal is linked to the concept of relevance. Relevance is one of the most relevant attributes in communication: it answers the question “What good am I bringing to you, if you listen to me?” Too many times I see students and young researchers and even not so young researchers so engrossed, so to speak, in what they are doing that they kind of take for granted that everybody can see the relevance of their work. But most of the times, this relevance is not obvious at all. I remember a professor in linguistics I met many years ago. Her research was about the various names of the goldfinch in the Indo-European languages. I’m not saying this does not make sense. I’m saying we need to be told in what sense it makes sense. Relevance can be seen as a series of concentric circles. The circle closest to our activity will be the relevance for that specific sector. Let us see an example: “This work focuses on operating conditions in a lower range of gas surface velocities, which is poorly studied, but significant for the application to gas flow-lines. It is then specified that these studies are significant for industrial applications, […] namely, to the transport of gas and liquid [which is] frequently encountered in various industrial contexts, namely petrochemical and nuclear.” Here, as you can see, we are moving from the inner to the outer circles, from the scientific sector to industrial applications and up to why this matters to society. The risk in specialist studies is to lose sight of the overall picture and focus on the details. We must not lose sight of the profound reason why we do something. And there is also a practical reason for this. We don’t know how many eyes will read our proposal and there may be both technical and non-technical reviewers. Talking to both is definitely recommendable. Finally, let's talk about the state of the art. We must show here that we are not, you know, the typical scholar locked in the ivory tower. We must show that, yes, we have looked around, we know there is a world out there and we are connected to it. First of all, we must make sure that nobody has already done or discovered what interests us: for sure we don't want to re-invent the wheel. Then we have to check what is most similar to what we mean to do: a research area, a body of literature, someone working at a similar topic, someone working at the same topic but with a different approach, a laboratory investigating something that could be useful to us ...and so on. We must show that we know how to “position” ourselves with respect to the world. The state of the art for a proposal in research will say: we know that there are already these studies, these approaches… there are already a number of good things that we can build upon, but there is still a gap and we mean to fill it. The state of the art for a market-oriented proposal will say: we know that there are these services, these products, these companies…. They are all fine, but there is still something that could be improved, a market share that has been neglected this far, and we will be working on it. In short, we must show that we know how to fit in the “ecosystem”.