Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: Future Leaders Fellowships: round 9

Funding to support ambitious research and innovation across UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s remit.

You must be an early career researcher or innovator who is either:

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

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding.

You must be based at, and have the support of, an eligible academic or non-academic institution.

There is no minimum or maximum project cost.

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

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change. The funding opportunity will open in February 2024. More information will be available on this page as soon as possible.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

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

  • are transitioning to or establishing independence
  • 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 supporting documents in the ‘Additional information’ 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

For applicants based in academia, there is a fixed cap on the number of applicants who can apply from each institution. Full details are provided in the ‘Additional information’ section. Please ensure you notify your host organisation of your intention to apply and allow time for internal shortlisting processes.

Who is not eligible to apply

If you have already achieved research or innovation independence (for example, by securing funding aimed at this career stage, or by already managing your own significant programme of work within a business), you should not apply.

Senior academics and innovators are not permitted to apply.

How you spend your time

If you are hosted by an academic organisation, you 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. If you hold substantial ongoing research commitments as a result of participation in other grants, you must relinquish these in order to hold a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships award.

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

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 organisations

Academic organisations 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 Fellowship 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 the application caps for academic host organisations in the ‘Additional information’ section for more information.

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

For round seven of the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme, host organisations were asked to provide statements describing the inclusive process they used to select their chosen candidates. These statements contributed to an external review undertaken by the Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) titled Inclusive selection and support for the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme – Investigation of current practice and identification of good practice examples.

The UKRI response (PDF, 200KB) to this report includes the implementation of a pilot, where academic host organisations wishing to submit applications to round nine of the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme must complete diversity monitoring templates to provide anonymised information on the number of prospective applicants by sex and gender, ethnicity, disability, and broad disciplinary groupings. Hosts will also be asked to highlight any updates to their inclusive selection statements. Further details of this requirement and questions to consider for updates to inclusive selection statements are contained within the UKRI response which can be found in the ‘Additional information’ section.

Information provided will not be used in the assessment or outcome of this funding opportunity.

Full proposals submitted by host organisations that have not reported on this process will be rejected prior to peer review.

The information hosts will be asked to provide is included within the UKRI response to the CRAC report. Details on how to submit this information will be provided ahead of the funding opportunity opening.

Salary commitment

For academic applicants, full proposals should highlight the institution’s commitment to the salary of the fellow. It should provide commitment to 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 and must be registered companies (incorporated by either companies house or the charity commission). 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. If you wish to apply for a Future Leaders Fellowships hosted within a Catapult should contact the team at fellows@ukri.org for further details.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

Aim

This funding opportunity 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 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

Scope

Applications are encouraged from the entirety of the UKRI remit. We welcome and encourage applicants from remits including the arts, humanities and social sciences and the five critical technologies as set out in the Department for Science and Innovation’s Science and Technology Framework.

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.

Future Leaders Fellowships 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 you can:

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

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

Duration

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.

What we will fund

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 Future Leaders Fellowships scheme has funded fellowships from £300,000 to over £2 million, and there is no preference for lower or higher cost proposals.

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 support should commit to the salary of the fellow. For academic applicants, the host 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).

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.

Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.

How to apply

Applications to this funding opportunity will be on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system. We will publish full details on how to apply when the funding opportunity opens.

You can find advice on completing your application in round nine guidance for academic-hosted applicants or non-academic-hosted applicants when available.

Unlike earlier rounds of the FLF scheme, there is no outline proposal stage required for this round.

You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place. We recommend you start your application early, liaising with your host organisation, who may also be able to provide additional advice and guidance.

Inclusion and accessibility

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. As a pilot initiative, UKRI are in the process of appointing a third-party supplier to provide application support, in the form of reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us. Additional details will be provided when available.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Full applications will be assessed by a 3-stage review process consisting of:

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

Assessment criteria for round nine will be published here as soon as possible and will be based on the assessment criteria for FLF round eight, aligned to the UKRI Funding Service.

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 Future Leaders Fellowships 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 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

An overview of the assessment process can be found here.

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 Future Leaders Fellowships 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 assessment criteria with panels considering the added value of fellowship support rather than the use of standard project grant support across all criteria.

The assessment process is outlined in the overview of the assessment process document in the ‘Additional information’ section.

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 the funding service with the final outcome.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UKRI Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact details

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

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact:

Future Leaders Fellowships team

Email: fellows@ukri.org

We aim to respond within three working days.

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org
Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

Find out more information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the Funding Service helpdesk on support@funding-service.ukri.org

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Supporting documents

CRAC – Identifying Good Practice Relating To Inclusive Selection Within The Future Leaders Fellowships Scheme

UKRI response to CRAC report (PDF, 200KB)

FLF Round 9 – Application caps for academic host organisations (PDF, 182KB)

FLF Round 8 guidance for academic-hosted applicants (PDF, 546 KB)

Round 8 Guidance for Non-academic-hosted Applicants (PDF, 503KB)

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Updates

  • 12 February 2024
    Updated 'FLF Round 9 – Application caps for academic host organisations' document added under Additional info section.

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