Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Future Leaders Fellowships: round 7

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This scheme is for early career researchers and innovators who are either:

  • looking to establish or transition to independence
  • developing their own original and ambitious plans within a commercial setting.

We are offering funding to support ambitious research or innovation programmes across UKRI’s remit.

You must be based at, and have the support of, an eligible academic or non-academic organisation (including businesses).

There is no minimum or maximum award value.

Your project can last for up to four years, with the option to apply to renew for a further three years.

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.

You do not need to hold a PhD and there are no eligibility rules based on the number of years since your PhD. However, if you do not hold a PhD, you must be able to demonstrate equivalent research or innovation experience or training.

There are no eligibility rules based on whether you currently hold a permanent or open-ended academic position or job role.

To assess and justify your suitability, go to the ‘additional info’ section and read the person specification annex in either the:

  • guidance for academic-hosted applicants
  • guidance for non-academic-hosted applicants.

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 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.

Who is not eligible

Applicants who have already achieved research or 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) should not apply. Senior academics and innovators are not permitted to apply.

How you spend your time

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 Future Leaders Fellowships award.

Fellows hosted by a non-academic organisation can come from commercial organisations of any size, in any sector or region. Reduced-hours fellowships are available to applicants hosted by a non-academic organisation. This enables fellows to spend up to 40% of their time (not funded by UKRI) on other activities within the organisation in order to enhance their career.

Eligible host organisations

Fellowships must be held at a UK-based organisation currently registered as eligible to apply for funding from the research councils or eligible to receive funding from Innovate UK.

Details of individual eligibility and lists of recognised institutes and independent research organisations can be found in our information about eligibility for research funding.

Academic institutions

Academic institutions can be:

  • any UK higher education institution that receives grant funding from one of the UK higher education funding bodies
  • a research institute
  • an independent research organisation.

Cross sector and organisational links, and research and innovation collaborations in both the UK and internationally, are encouraged.

Number of applications

The Future Leader Fellowships (FLF) scheme is highly competitive. Increasing numbers of applications in previous rounds led to the extension of timelines and an increased peer review burden on our research and innovation community. To administrate this funding opportunity in a timely manner, the number of applications which can be submitted by each academic host organisation is capped. Read annex A of the guidance for academic-hosted applicants in the ‘additional info’ section for more information.

The cap will be implemented at the full application stage, meaning academic host organisations are able to submit more outline proposals than their capped total, should they require more time to carry out their internal shortlisting processes. This change means that academic host organisations have longer to carry out their internal shortlisting processes as it will no longer need to be completed by the outline deadline of 18 October.

However, while this aims to ensure academic host organisations have sufficient time to conduct a fair and open process and that no applicant will be disadvantaged by not having sufficient time to work on their proposals for internal shortlisting, it is the academic host organisation’s responsibility to ensure that applicants and research support staff have adequate time to work on their full submissions.

Inclusive selection process

Host organisations are asked to provide a statement describing the inclusive process they have used to select their chosen candidates by completing an online survey before the submission of any full proposals to UKRI.

The information submitted will contribute to an external review being undertaken by UKRI which aims to identify and share good practice relating to applicant support and inclusive selection processes. The statement should describe the process used to identify potential candidates. It should not include personal details of potential candidates nor any details that may enable them to be identified.

Outline proposals submitted by host organisations that have not reported on this process will be office rejected.

The survey link will be provided when the outline funding opportunity opens.

Salary commitment

For academic applicants, full proposals should highlight the institution’s commitment to the salary of the fellow and to providing an open-ended UK-based independent research or innovation position, to be taken up during or on completion of the fellowship in line with organisational employment policies and practices.

Non-academic organisations

Non-academic organisations hosting fellowships should provide an innovation or research environment of international standing and must be eligible for UK government subsidy control. Fellowships will only be awarded to support research or innovation above and beyond the standard activities of the organisation.

Catapult organisations

UKRI has published an update on Catapult eligibility for funding and fellows wishing to apply for an FLF hosted within a Catapult should contact the team at fellows@ukri.org for further details.

What we're looking for

We’re looking to fund fellowships of up to seven years to support talented researchers and innovators who are transitioning to research or innovation leadership.

Fellowships will be funded for four years in the first phase, with the option to apply to renew for a further three years later on.

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.

In your application, 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 or ideas
  • that you can take a leading role in your area
  • the suitability of the proposed environment or environments for your research or innovation and its impact.

What the fellowships support

Applications are welcome from the entirety of the UKRI remit. We have not seen a difference in the award rates between applications from different disciplines. We welcome and encourage applicants from remits including the arts, humanities and social sciences and the seven technology families, as launched in the UK’s Innovation Strategy.

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 or social value from ideas.

FLFs are personal awards to support fellows to 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 or innovation objectives. This could include:

  • time for work in other environments
  • developing international links
  • developing new skills (for example, in policy or commercialisation).

You should also consider what career development support opportunities are appropriate. This could include 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.

The fellowship may be made up of a single programme of work, or multiple consecutive or concurrent interlinked projects, led by the fellow (known as a ‘Portfolio Fellowship’).

There is flexibility to alter the programme once a project is underway to ensure fellows can:

  • react to the changing research landscape
  • capitalise on advances in understanding
  • react to changing business needs.

In all cases, the work must allow the fellow to fully develop their leadership potential and result in high quality research or innovation, or both.

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.

The FLF scheme has funded fellowships from £300,000 to over £2 million, and there is no preference for lower or higher cost proposals. You must include justification for costs over £1.5 million total UKRI contribution within the cover letter attached to the full proposal.

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 host organisation’s supporting letter should commit to the salary of the fellow and, for academic applicants, should confirm an open-ended UK-based independent research 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 or project partner depending on their role, but their inclusion must be fully justified. For example, they may bring complementary or different skills to the project, or provide access to samples or equipment.

Fellows can spend periods of time overseas or in other internationally leading research or innovation organisations if it can be clearly justified in terms of:

  • their programme of work
  • meeting the overarching aims of the scheme.

Start date

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

How to apply

There are two stages to the application:

  • outline proposal
  • full application.

Submitting an outline proposal is mandatory. It will be used to help us to gauge interest and plan for peer review.

You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Before you apply

Applicants must read the following documents in the ‘additional info’ section before applying:

  • round 7 guidance for academic-hosted applicants or round 7 guidance for non-academic-hosted applicants
  • pre-application checks.

Academic host organisations submitting applications to this funding opportunity must provide an inclusive selection statement by completing this survey prior to the closing date for full applications.

Applying using Je-S

All outline and full applications must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) System.

You will not be able to submit your outline proposal until the opportunity opens on 6 September 2022.

Outline proposal stage

In order to gauge interest and inform panel development it is mandatory that host organisations submit an outline proposal for all the applications they intend to submit, prior to submitting full proposals.

These are not assessed, and so feedback is not provided on the content of outline proposals. Changes may be made between the outline and full application stage, for example, the inclusion of project partners. It is expected that all applicants submitting outline proposals will then submit full proposals, there is no further invitation from UKRI to do so.

The Je-S outline proposal form includes the following mandatory fields:

  • project details (host organisation, department, grant reference, project title)
  • fellow
  • co-investigators
  • project partners
  • objectives
  • research council or Innovate UK relevance
  • summary (4000 characters including spaces)
  • keywords section.

Full applications will not be accepted from any applicant who has not submitted an outline proposal to the same funding opportunity.

When applying, select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: Outline Proposal
  • scheme: UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships
  • call name: UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Outline round 7.

MRC is listed as the council because it is hosting Future Leaders Fellowships on behalf of UKRI.

The deadline for submitting an outline proposal is 18 October 2022 at 16:00.

If you have not submitted an outline proposal by this date, you will not be able to apply with a full application.

Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before the deadline date. If you need to create yourself a Je-S account prior to submission, please allow at least five working days for this process.

Full application stage

Je-S will open for full applications on 13 September 2022 and will close on 6 December 2022 at 16:00.

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.

When applying, select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: Fellowship Proposal
  • scheme: UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships
  • call name:
    • UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Academics Dec 2022 for applicants with academic host organisations
    • UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Non Academics Dec 2022 (business) for applicants with non-academic host organisations.

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

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

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

Mandatory documents to submit with your full application

Mandatory attachments include:

  • case for support
  • CV and outputs list (a template is provided in the ‘additional info’ section)
  • data management plan (a template is provided in the ‘additional info’ section)
  • head of department supporting statement
  • justification of resources
  • workplan.

Non-academic hosted applicants must also submit a finance form for business fellows (provided in the ‘additional information’ section).

Additional documents to submit

There are a number of different documents you may need to submit with your application, depending on your proposed area of study and host organisation. These could include:

  • cover letter
  • project partner letter of support
  • mentor statement
  • support for NHS costs
  • signed animal usage declaration
  • use of rodents overseas form
  • facility form
  • technical assessment (or equivalent) form
  • British Antarctic Survey logistic support
  • NERC ship time and aircraft requests.

For full details, refer to the relevant guidance for applicants document in the ‘additional info’ section.

Studies with NHS costs

If your proposed study involves NHS costs, you must complete and submit the relevant SoECAT form with your full application. You can find the forms by visiting the National Institute for Health and Care (NIHR) excess treatment costs page.

You can find full details about completing these forms in the round 7 guidance for applicants documents in the ‘additional info’ section.

Research involving animals

If the research involves the use of pigs in any location, you will need to complete a ‘standardised questions on the use of pigs’ form.

If the research involves the use of animals (rodents, rabbits, sheep, goats, pigs, cattle or xenopus) overseas, rather than in the UK, you should complete the relevant ‘additional questions on the use of [species] overseas’ form.

All forms are downloadable from the ‘use of animals’ section of the NC3Rs peer review and advice service.

You should submit your completed form with your Je-S application. Read the round 7 guidance for applicants in the ‘additional information’ section for full details.

If you are an academic applicant

Academic applicants should use the academic salary calculator template in the ‘additional info’ section to calculate the total principal investigator salary to request via Je-S. This template does not need to be attached to your application.

How we will assess your application

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

Full applications will be assessed by a three-stage review process consisting of:

  • written peer review by sector or discipline experts
  • shortlisting by Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF) sift panels
  • interview by FLF interview panels.

Not all applicants will progress from shortlisting to an interview.

Your 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.

All research councils and Innovate UK will be involved in the delivery of peer review, including collaborating on reviewer selection for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary proposals.

You will be invited to respond to reviewers’ comments. The independent reviews and your response will be used at a shortlisting meeting where your application is assessed against the four assessment criteria by members of the FLF panel college and other relevant experts. Panels will consider the added value of fellowship support rather than the use of standard project grant support across all four criteria.

Panel college members are experts from across the research and innovation landscape, including from business and public and third sectors. They 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
  • across interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.

Handling confidential information in the peer review process

UKRI understands the importance of protecting personal information and is committed to complying with the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR).

All assessors (reviewers and panel members) must sign a legally binding confidentiality agreement before they have sight of application information. UKRI also has mechanisms to review highly sensitive information. Applicants should contact fellows@ukri.org prior to submission if they believe their applications contain highly sensitive information.

Applicants can also request in their cover letter that their proposal is not seen by specific individuals or organisations.

The cover letter is not sent to reviewers, but will be seen by UKRI and panel members.

Interview process

If you are selected for an interview, we will contact you with details of the time and date of interview. Interviews will last for up to an hour.

Multiple interview panels take place at the same time by members of the FLF panel college and other relevant experts. Roving panel members and UKRI observers move between the panels to ensure consistency. Again, applications are assessed against the four assessment criteria with panels considering the added value of fellowship support rather than the use of standard project grant support across all four criteria.

The assessment process is outlined in the overview of the assessment process document in the ‘additional info’ section.

Guidance on assessment

To fully understand how your application will be assessed and how to respond to comments, you should read the following attachments in the ‘additional info’ section:

  • round 7 assessment criteria
  • principal investigator (PI) response guidance.

Outcomes and feedback

You will be notified of the outcome of your interview within four 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

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Future Leaders Fellowships team

Email: fellows@ukri.org

We aim to respond within 3 working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

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