Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Future Leaders Fellowships: Round 6

This fellowship is open to researchers and/or innovators with outstanding potential, who are transitioning to or establishing independence. You may be based in universities, UK-registered businesses, and other environments including Catapults and institutes.

Four years’ funding is available to support ambitious research/innovation programmes across UKRI’s remit, and fellows benefit from outstanding support to develop their careers. There is no minimum or maximum award value, and awards may be renewed for a further three years.

You must have the support of your host organisation for your outline application.

Who can apply

This scheme is for early career researchers and innovators who are transitioning to or establishing independence or who may be developing their own original and ambitious plans within a commercial setting.

Applicants who have already achieved research/innovation independence (for example by securing funding aimed at this career stage, or by already managing their own significant programme of work within a business) will therefore not be competitive. Senior academics and innovators are not permitted to apply.

There are no eligibility rules based on years since PhD or whether the applicant currently holds a permanent/open-ended academic position or job role. If you are applying from business, there is no requirement to hold a PhD, however you should be able to demonstrate equivalent research/innovation experience and/or training.

Read the overview and objectives of the scheme (PDF, 170KB), which includes the person specification, to assess and justify your suitability. Note that UKRI cannot confirm eligibility prior to submission.

The fellowship offers flexibility to support outstanding individuals:

  • from diverse career backgrounds
  • returning from a career break or returning to research and/or innovation following time in other roles
  • wishing to work part-time or in job shares in order to combine the fellowship with personal responsibilities
  • coming to the UK from abroad – researchers and innovators are eligible for a Global Talent visa under the ‘exceptional promise’ category for future research leaders. They must have the support of their host organisation. Find out about the Global Talent visa.

Fellows hosted by an academic organisation may spend up to six hours a week (pro rata for part-time applicants) on other commitments or related activities, provided they enhance career development. Those with substantial ongoing research commitments as a result of participation in other grants must relinquish these in order to hold a UKRI FLF award.

Fellows hosted by a business can come from commercial organisations of any size, in any sector or region. Reduced-hours fellowships are available to applicants hosted by a business, enabling fellows to spend up to 40% of their time focused on other activities within the business in order to enhance their career.

Before applying you must:

Eligible host organisations

Fellowships must be held at an eligible UK-based host organisation – universities, UK-registered businesses, and other research environments including Catapults and research council institutes and laboratories.

Academic institutions can be any UK higher education institution that receives grant funding from one of the UK higher education funding bodies, research institutes and independent research organisations. Cross sector and organisational links, and research and innovation collaborations in both the UK and internationally, are encouraged.

For academic applicants, full proposals should highlight the commitment to the salary of the fellow and to providing an open-ended UK based independent research and/or innovation position, to be taken up during or on completion of the fellowship (in line with organisational employment policies and practices). We recently wrote to higher education institutions with some key messages for round 6 (PDF, 103KB).

Businesses or other privately-owned research organisations hosting fellowships, should provide an innovation and/or research environment of international standing and must be eligible to receive UK Government state aid. Fellowships will only be awarded to support research and/or innovation above and beyond the standard activities of the organisation.

Businesses looking to host fellows should read the introduction for businesses (PDF, 152KB).

What we're looking for

We’re looking to fund fellowships of up to seven years (funded for four years in the first phase with the option to extend for a further three years) to support talented researchers and innovators who are transitioning to research and/or innovation leadership.

You must clearly demonstrate:

  • how the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF) award will support and enable your long-term career goals
  • broad knowledge of the area of interest and a compelling vision for the excellence and importance of your proposed research or innovation
  • your own original and ambitious plans/ideas
  • you can take a leading role in your area
  • the suitability of the proposed environment(s) for your research or innovation and its impact.

The scheme aims to:

  • develop, retain, attract and sustain research and innovation talent in the UK
  • foster new research and innovation career paths including those at the academic/business and interdisciplinary boundaries, and facilitate movement of people between sectors
  • provide sustained funding and resources for the best early career researchers and innovators
  •  provide long-term, flexible funding to tackle difficult and novel challenges, and support adventurous, ambitious programmes.

We support fellowships across our remit

We support fellowships in all areas of UKRI’s remit, including multi- and interdisciplinary projects. Fellowships can also lead and develop innovation. We define innovation as the practical translation of disruptive ideas into novel, relevant and valued products, services, processes, systems or business models, making them readily available to markets, government and society, creating economic and/or social value from ideas.

Future Leaders Fellowships are personal awards to support fellows develop as impactful and influential research or innovation leaders.

You are encouraged to think broadly about the type of activities you may pursue as part of your research and/or innovation objectives. This could include time for work in other environments, developing international links, and development of new skills (for example in policy or commercialisation).

You should also consider what career development support opportunities are appropriate, for example mentoring and professional training and development, and relevant training courses that will underpin your future career ambitions and learning. A clear programme of skills development is an essential component of this fellowship.

How much funding you can request

There is no limit to the amount of funding you can request under this scheme, but requests must be appropriate to the project and you must be able to justify the amount you need to meet the objectives of your proposal. You must notify UKRI at outline stage of any request for more than £1.5 million total UKRI contribution.

The fellowship will provide salary support. For academic and Catapult-hosted fellows, in partnership with the host, this is tapered throughout the fellowship, with host organisations required to commit to funding an increasing percentage of the applicant’s salary as the fellowship progresses. The precise details for non-business and business hosts are available in the guidance for applicants (PDF, 977KB).

The host’s supporting letter should commit to the salary of the fellow and, for academic applicants, should confirm an open-ended UK-based independent research and/or innovation position, to be taken up during or on the completion of the fellowship (in line with organisational employment policies and practices).

Collaborating with others

You may wish to work in collaboration with individuals or organisations. They may be added as a co-investigator, collaborator, or project partner depending on their role, however please ensure their inclusion is fully justified (such as through bringing complementary and different skills to the project, or providing access to samples or equipment).

Read the relevant sections of the guidance for applicants (PDF, 977KB) and frequently asked questions (PDF, 386KB) fully.

Fellows can spend periods overseas or in other internationally leading research or innovation organisations if it can be clearly justified in terms of their programme of work and meeting the overarching aims of the scheme.

Start date

Please note each round has a mandatory published start date and you should ensure your host is able to facilitate setting up your award within this timeframe.

How to apply

There are two stages to the application, outline and full. All outline and full applications must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S).

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

An outline proposal must be submitted for all applications. The deadline for these was 10 December 2020. If you have not submitted an outline proposal you will not be able to apply with a full application. Je-S opened for full applications on 3 December 2020 and is due to close on 23 February 2021.

When applying select ‘New document’ then:

  • council: MRC (MRC are hosting the FLF proposals on behalf of UKRI)
  • document type: Fellowship Proposal
  • scheme: UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships
  • call name: UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Round 6.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook and in our guidance for applicants (PDF, 977KB). If you experience difficulties using Je-S or have questions regarding its use, please contact the Je-S help desk.


Help with your application

Your host organisation will be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application. If your host is a business that is not currently registered with Je-S, you should ensure they register as soon as possible.

You must complete the following fields in the Je-S outline proposal form:

  • project details (host organisation, department, grant reference, project title)
  • fellow’s details
  • a summary with a 4000-character limit (including spaces)
  • co-investigator details
  • any project partners
  • objectives
  • relevance to research council(s) or Innovate UK.

A covering letter must be uploaded where the applicant is requesting any of the below:

  • funding totalling over £1.5 million (80% full economic costing for academic-hosted applications – or total project cost for business-hosted applicants)
  • funds of more than £138,000 for an individual item of equipment (inclusive of VAT and Import Duty) (not applicable for business-hosted applicants)
  • funds for instrument development (not applicable for business-hosted applicants)
  • business-hosted fellows applying for a reduced-hours fellowship, with justification
  • where the proposal is intended to be held on a job-share basis.

(Please note that the covering letter requirements for the full application differ. Please check the guidance for applicants (PDF, 977KB) when completing your full application.)

For data analysis purposes, we ask applicants to not include the words ‘COV-19’, ‘COVID-19’ or ‘Coronavirus’ in the summary or title sections unless the application relates to proposed research and/or innovation in this area.

Important documents

This is information you will allow you to complete your application.

Templates to complete and submit

The following templates should be included with your application. There are different requirements depending on your proposed area of study and the host organisation:

For academic applicants, please use the following academic salary template (Excel, 102KB) to calculate the total principal investigator salary to request via Je-S. This template does not need to be attached to your application.

If your application intends to use rodents overseas you will also need to complete the use of rodents overseas form.

If your application intends to use pigs you will also need to complete the standardised questions on the use of pigs.

Guidance documents to read

All applicants must read the following documents before applying:

If the host organisation is a business you should also read:

If you are unable to secure a letter of support before the deadline, please complete a missing letter of support form (Word, 51KB) for each missing letter.

How we will assess your application

Your outline proposal is not assessed. We use it to gauge interest and plan for peer review.

Your full application is assessed by at least three independent experts from the UK and overseas. You can nominate up to three independent reviewers to assess your application, but we will only use one nominated reviewer assessment and may decide not to approach any of your nominated reviewers.

Peer reviewers will assess your application and provide comments. They will also score it using the peer reviewer scoring system against the following assessment criteria:

  • research and innovation excellence
  • applicant and their development
  • impact and strategic relevance
  • research and innovation environment and costs

You will be invited to respond to reviewers’ comments. The independent reviews and your comments go to a shortlisting meeting where your application is assessed against the criteria by members of the Future Leaders Fellowships Panel College and other relevant experts.

Panel college members are experts from across the research and innovation landscape, including from business, public and third sectors, and have significant experience or understanding of assessing the quality of major research and innovation projects across a range of areas, beyond their own specialist area, and across interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.

Applications are assessed against the four assessment criteria. Panels will consider the added value of fellowship support rather than the use of standard project grant support across all four criteria.

You will be notified whether your proposal is progressing to interview. Interviews will be held virtually, and last for 30 minutes. Multiple interview panels take place at the same time, and roving panel members and UKRI observers move between them to ensure consistency.

For further details on the process, please see the overview of the assessment process (PDF, 151KB) for the FLF diagram.

Guidance on assessment

To fully understand how your application will be assessed and how to respond to comments you should read:

Outcomes and feedback

You will be notified of the outcome of your interview within two weeks. The team will inform you when you are likely to receive written feedback, which will be included with the system-generated email sent by Je-S with the final outcome.


Contact details

If your question isn’t covered in the guidance, or you need further information, email:

Additional info

For more about the scheme, including applications from previous rounds, see:

This page was updated on 7 January 2021. The deadline for full applications has been extended to 23 February.  To reflect the changes and an increase in demand we will also revise key dates in the timeline, including the latest start dates for awards, and will provide more information as soon as we are able.

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