A lottery at the beginning of a grant application process with a normative rather than competitive focus might facilitate the funding of new and exploratory ideas. We simulated four exemplary funding scenarios and here compare their benefits and drawbacks with respect to costs, diversity and quality. We contrasted a one-stage scenario (for example, the classic National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant R01 or the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), a two-stage scenario (for example, the European Research Council (ERC)), the tiebreaker lottery (for example, SNSF) and the proposed pre-lottery scenario, and we transparently model various assumptions that affect the success of grant applications. All modelled scenarios result in improved quality of selected grants. However, when considering the costs, sunk costs, effects of self-selection and different biases in each additional review round, we can see that the pre-lottery scenario may have many advantages over others (Fig. ). Here, our simulations illustrate the potential value of pre-lotteries in the grant application process in freeing up substantial resources, which could again be used to improve the review process (for example, by training reviewers in order to reduce bias ).