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Future research and innovation leaders backed through flagship fellowships


Future research and innovation leaders backed through flagship fellowships

The research and innovation leaders of the future will be supported to develop their careers while tackling ambitious challenges through the latest round of UK Research and Innovation’s Future Leaders Fellowships.

UKRI’s flagship scheme invests in outstanding individuals across the UK and, for the first time, five of the awards will support new research and innovation leaders based directly in businesses.

The business-based fellows will work on a wide variety of projects including improving mobile phone infrastructure, finding sustainable replacements for materials used in building aircraft, and developing innovative products by combining social science with creative design.

Fellowships have long been used to support up-and-coming researchers in universities. The funding of fellows based directly in businesses is new, marking a milestone in the provision of long-term funding for the most promising researchers and innovators in industry.  Helping to foster new research and innovation career paths will increase the movement of ideas and people between the business and academic sectors; breaking down barriers and developing new ways of working.

The 90 UKRI Future Leaders Fellows have been announced today alongside ten Ernest Rutherford Fellows. The Ernest Rutherford Fellowships, managed by UKRI’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, support future scientific leaders in areas such as astrophysics, nuclear physics, theoretical particle physics and cosmology at an early stage of their career.  

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships are UKRI’s flagship talent programme, designed to foster and nurture the research and innovation leaders of the future.

“We are delighted to support these outstanding researchers and innovators across universities, research organisations and businesses.”

Kirsty Grainger, Director of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships, said: “That businesses are hosting Future Leaders Fellows demonstrates the fellowships’ potential to create innovative solutions that can deliver transformational change for industry and wider society.

“The Future Leaders Fellows represent some of the most brilliant people working in the country. We’re supporting researchers from every background – from the arts to medicine, and the social sciences to engineering – helping them become the research and innovation leaders of the future.”

The businesses in receipt of funding* include:

  • BT’s Anvar Tukmanov, who is investigating how the performance of new radio communication systems can be enhanced to address emerging types of devices and services. BT expects that the programme will help connect latest practical insight from the mobile network industry with fundamental science to make future networks efficient and versatile.
  • At Jaguar Land Rover, Lee Skrypchuk will be investigating how future automated, connected, electrified and shared vehicles will influence engineering-based requirements by following a multidisciplinary, human-centered, scientific approach into developing future vehicles.
  • Zinc Ventures’ Rachel Carey is leading a new programme of innovation that leverages social science research to build new startups that tackle important societal issues.
  • At TISICS – the world’s only integrated ceramic fibre and metal composite manufacturer – Ayantika Mitra will be taking radical approaches to accelerate digital manufacturing processes in new materials that are needed for the next generation of fuel-efficient aircraft and lightweight space systems.
  • FAC Technology’s Declan Carolan will lead on developing greener, cleaner materials, seeking to find renewable bio-based alternatives to oil-based epoxy resin used to manufacture advanced composites that have applications in industries including aerospace, automotive, renewable energy and oil & gas.

UKRI’s initiative aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines. Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5 million over an initial four years. The grant supports challenging and novel projects, and the development of the individual, and can pay for team members’ wages, equipment and other needs.

The breadth of research and innovation areas that these fellowships support is a key aspect of the scheme. Awards include:

  • Joseph Lindley, Lancaster University, will be examining the unique value of design research as a tool to engage with the challenges and opportunities of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things.
  • Erin Connelly, University of Warwick, who will be using network analysis approaches to identify combinations of ingredients in medieval medical texts as a novel route to developing new antimicrobial therapeutics in a time of increasing antimicrobial resistance.
  • Oliver Hauser at the University of Exeter will be exploring how to reduce gender bias and discrimination in the workplace, using randomized controlled trials, observing hiring, promotion and retention policies on disadvantaged groups.
  • Rebecca Beveridge, who will be leaving her position at Vienna Biocentre in Austria to take up her fellowship at the University of Strathclyde. She is focusing on proteins that can rapidly change shape, in the hope of better understanding their role in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

The deadline for the next round (round 5) of the Future Leaders Fellowships was recently extended to 2 June in response to the situation regarding Covid-19. A range of other support is also available from UKRI for businesses looking to invest in talented innovators, including the Innovation Scholarship Secondment Scheme.

*Business grants subject to final checks.

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