Through the Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships, we’re looking to support individuals with a high international standing in AI who can make an impact on the UK AI research and innovation landscape. This may be through recruiting top talent to the UK, or by retaining leaders currently located in the UK.
With these substantial awards, you should seek to build new AI capability and capacity in the UK. You will be expected to lead a highly skilled and potentially multidisciplinary team to deliver an ambitious, world-leading research programme that will advance the field of AI, and potentially other disciplines. This could be achieved, for example, by developing novel AI methodologies that address:
- the fundamental, theoretical or mathematical challenges in AI
- the challenges present in other disciplines or sectors.
Your proposed work must develop AI beyond the current state of the art. Programmes that seek to apply current AI methodologies to an application area will not be accepted.
If you’re a UK-based applicant, you should explain in your proposal how the fellowship will help retain you within the UK, and be used to build new AI capability and capacity beyond what would be possible without this fellowship.
What we expect of you
As a fellow, you will be expected to:
- undertake world-leading research, leading a major programme that builds new capability and capacity in AI
- use the significant support package to establish around you a highly skilled and potentially multidisciplinary research team
- develop your position of leadership in the national and international research community, as well as at your host organisation
- engage with, influence and advocate for the strategic direction of the UK’s AI ecosystem
- act as a leader in the AI community and an ambassador and advocate for it, driving forward the UK and international AI research agenda
- initiate, grow and maintain strong relationships and collaborations with academia, business, and broader stakeholders in the UK and internationally, facilitating a positive impact on the wider research landscape
- develop the skills and careers of your team, growing the independent researchers and innovators of the future
- actively engage with researchers, developers and users to enable AI for use in the real world to ensure that AI is designed, developed and deployed robustly and transparently
- embed the principles of responsible innovation and trusted research throughout your activities
- deliver research with a high likelihood of impact on UK society and the economy
- build a broader portfolio of funding and activities beyond the fellowship, moving towards a position of sustainability at the end of the fellowship.
If you work at the interface between AI and another discipline, you will be expected to make leadership and ambassadorial contributions to all relevant fields.
You are also expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
You should use your proposal to explain how your fellowship vision complements and delivers against UKRI’s statement of opportunities on AI (PDF, 5.6MB) and the UK’s national AI strategy (GOV.UK).
Up to £8 million is available to fund a small number of sizable awards (£3 million to £5 million) for up to five years. UKRI will fund 80% of the full economic cost.
If successful in your application, you must start your fellowship by 1 October 2023.
We expect you to request a significant package of resource, designed in partnership with your host organisation and collaborative partners, to provide the best support for your research vision. This might include:
- relocation costs
- attractive packages for staff
- access to data and infrastructure
- other standard research grant costs.
Resources may be used for research expenses including:
- research technical support including research software engineers, data scientists, postdoctoral research assistants (PDRA) and fellow salaries
- other standard expenses.
Relocation costs are also permitted for international applicants, and up to £100,000 may be requested to set up research activity in the UK.
Resources may be used for activities that initiate, grow and maintain collaborations with stakeholders (for example academia, business, government, third sector) such as:
- staff exchanges
- regular travel.
Support for studentships is exceptionally permitted through this investment, where this is clearly justified. Student engagement may also be realised through institutional or stakeholder support, or collaboration with the UKRI AI Centres for Doctoral Training.
See further information on allowable costs.
We want to be flexible to help you deliver your research. Detailed resourcing estimations are only required for the first two years of the investment, with a decision-making methodology for subsequent planning.
Time dedicated to the fellowship
We don’t expect you to commit 100% of your full time equivalent (FTE) contracted time to this activity throughout its duration. However, on average a minimum 50% commitment is expected over the lifetime of the award as this fellowship should be your main identity. You may start your award by working less than 50% FTE, but should ramp up your commitment to a minimum of 50% FTE within six months of the award start date.
By the final year of the award, we expect you to have developed your portfolio beyond the fellowship and be working a maximum of 50% FTE to enable broader portfolio development. You should design an appropriate time commitment over the duration of the award to deliver your research vision.
If you have a joint academic appointment with other sectors, the minimum time commitment to the fellowship is 40% average over the lifetime of the award. This should enable you to establish leadership within the host organisation outside of the time committed to the fellowship. Your time commitment should be suitably justified in your application against the assessment criteria and aims of the programme.
The fellowship must start by 1 October 2023. No extensions will be given for delays in the appointment of staff. You should allow for staff recruitment time when putting together your proposal. For example, if you estimate that it will take six months to recruit a PDRA, only 54 months of PDRA time should be requested. Only if there is a PDRA or staff member ready by the grant start date should you apply for the full five years (60 months) of time.
Costs should be based on the 2023 to 2024 academic year with no account for inflation. UKRI will index the grant as appropriate to account for cost changes over the grant lifetime.
Grant extensions will only be considered under exceptional circumstances in line with the Equality Act 2010. Extensions require UKRI agreement on a case-by-case basis.
The research organisation remains responsible for compliance with the terms of the Equality Act 2010, including any subsequent amendments introduced while work is in progress, and for ensuring that the expectations set out in the UKRI statement of expectations for equality and diversity are met.
Read the Equality Act 2010.
Due to the scale and prestige of these awards, significant collaboration and leverage (cash or in-kind) will be expected from project partners (for example, business, public sector, third sector). This may include models such as endowing chairs or adding to academic salaries.
We expect collaborations to build a mutually beneficial two-way relationship based on:
- secondments in both directions
To ensure the awards are inclusive of a variety of approaches and research fields, no specific leverage expectations are being set for eligibility to this programme.
Clear plans for engaging with new and existing collaborators over the duration of the fellowship should be detailed in the case for support.
Involvement of The Alan Turing Institute
The Alan Turing Institute is a delivery partner in the Turing AI Fellowships and therefore the institute’s policy is to take a neutral stance towards all applicants as they intend to work openly and proactively with all successful Turing AI fellows. This means they will not be offering specific support to individual candidates, for example acting as project partners on any Turing AI Fellowship application. They will not offer letters of support to any candidates.
Find out more about The Alan Turing Institute.
Funds for doctoral students may be applied for as part of this funding opportunity. This exception recognises that studentships supported through UKRI’s main routes may have been committed before the fellowships are awarded, and that these fellowships represent an exciting opportunity for these students to train and acquire skills through working with eminent researchers they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
The students will also benefit from the drawing together of vibrant, balanced teams that combine doctoral and postdoctoral research and build leadership for the future in key areas of AI.
The fellowship must be viable without the studentship, with distinctive objectives that are not reliant upon studentships.
Your proposal will need to:
- show how the inclusion of doctoral studentships adds value to the proposed research, and to the student compared to UKRI’s existing training grant routes
- clearly explain the benefit to doctoral students of being part of the research team.
Doctoral students must be:
- provided with a clear opportunity for a distinct and independent course of enquiry from the fellowship objectives and receive training that is not available through existing programmes
- supported through the fellowship with the opportunity to develop their substantive research skills as well as with broader professional development opportunities.
In recognition that EPSRC is delivering these fellowships on behalf of UKRI, EPSRC rules on international students will apply. International students recruited as part of the fellowship will count towards the 30% of new EPSRC studentships in any one year with open eligibility.
For more information, see the guidance on flexibility to support the very best students.
Training doctoral students
The host organisation should have:
- a track record of training doctoral students
- UKRI doctoral students training concurrently with students supported by the fellowship.
You will be expected to have completed any supervisor training required to be familiar with supervising within a UK higher education institution, before students start their studies. If you are a fellow who has been recruited from abroad, the student will also need to be assigned a co-supervisor with experience of training UK-based UKRI doctoral students.
Evidence of an appropriate training environment that meets the UKRI expectations for doctoral training should be provided in your proposal.
UKRI also expects that other doctoral students aligned with the fellowship research programme, but funded from other sources, would have the same training conditions and opportunities as those students funded by fellowship.
Studentships should be four years in duration and must start in the 2023 to 2024 academic year.
Careful consideration should be given to the overall staff resource on the fellowship and the balance between the different types of staff resource available. To ensure that postdoctoral researchers have sufficient time to support and train students alongside their research, funding should be requested for a minimum of 2.0 FTE PDRAs per studentship. You should ensure that you have sufficient time to supervise students, but this time should not be charged to the grant.
As a minimum, the UKRI stipend and indicative fees must be met. Enhanced stipends are permitted where this has been justified in your application.
Student fees, stipends and research training support costs (RTSG) related directly to the training of the student may be funded by UKRI. Research training support costs specifically relate to the research project of the student and related additional technical training needs above those covered by the tuition fee. Such costs include:
- travel and subsistence
- conference costs
Indirect and estate costs are not applicable to studentships and supervisor costs are ineligible for funding.
Funding associated with studentships will be issued to the fellow as a separate training grant with training grant terms and conditions. See the guidance on meeting UKRI terms and conditions for funding.
Fees and stipends
Research councils publish their national minimum doctoral stipend and indicative fee level on an annual basis. Find out more about studentship and doctoral funding.
As a guide, UKRI’s national minimum doctoral stipend for 2022 to 2023 is £16,062 and the indicative fee level for 2022 to 2023 is £4,596.
An uplift to this minimum stipend may be requested if there is clear justification for doing so in your proposal. A top up may be achieved through using business leverage rather than requesting further UKRI funding.
Research training support grant (RTSG)
This is a contribution towards costs incurred in training research students, for example the provision of consumables, equipment and travel. The RTSG is not intended to relieve a research organisation of any part of its normal expenditure.
You should justify the level of RTSG requested. As a guide, MRC allocates a minimum £5,000 MRC-funded RTSG per year.
Fellowships are a personal award, however you can name co-investigators on your application. The expertise of co-investigators should complement yours, adding value to your research vision.
Co-investigators are not expected to lead any of the work packages. Their role should be to enable the delivery of your vision.
The inclusion of co-investigators should be clearly justified in your proposal.
Individual items of equipment between £10,000 and £400,000 can be included on proposals for individual research projects if the equipment is essential to the proposed research and if no appropriate alternative provision can be accessed. A 50% contribution to the cost of the equipment from other sources is required.
For any items or combined assets with a value above £138,000 (including VAT), a two-page equipment business case must also be included in the proposal documentation. They will also need to be reported on annually as part of the university’s equipment portfolio annual reports. This will be communicated via an additional grant condition on the research grant.
Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) and consumables should be in the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading in Je-S.
Read more about equipment funding.
Guidance for the host organisation
Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships are a strategic investment intended to build new AI capability and capacity in the UK.
The host organisation statement at both stages of this funding opportunity is an important feature of this award. The host organisation and the applicant should co-create a work plan for the investment, outlining the institutional and partner support that will be required to ensure the anticipated outcomes of the fellowship are delivered, and the full potential of the UK investment in the individual is realised. This plan should be monitored and adapted as required to enable a flexible fellowship pathway.
Host organisations should use the host organisation statement to clearly describe:
- their long-term strategy for AI
- how their AI strategy complements the UK landscape
- how they anticipate the fellow will enable them to deliver their strategy
- the strategic reasons for wanting to recruit or retain the world-leading individual in question
- their intended approach to supporting the individual, their team, and their research activity to enable their full potential contribution to the UK to be realised.
Due to the strategic nature of these awards, we don’t expect host organisations to submit more than two applications. Host organisations wishing to submit more than two applications should discuss this with EPSRC early in the candidate selection process.
Support for fellows
The host organisation will play a key role in the retention and recruitment of global talent. They should demonstrate clear support for the proposed fellow and articulate the fellow’s anticipated role in delivering the organisation’s AI strategy. It is expected that significant tangible support will be offered to the fellow, above and beyond that of a standard fellowship, and commensurate with the national strategic need to invest in that individual.
It is expected that career mobility between the fellow’s team and collaborative partners in other disciplines or sectors will be explicitly enabled, including secondments in both directions.
Where fellows have been recruited from outside the UK, the host organisation should provide support to integrate the fellow and their team into the UK research ecosystem and AI community. Additionally, host organisations will be expected to outline how they plan to facilitate interaction between Turing AI fellows nationally.
At the end of this five-year investment, it is expected that each of the fellows supported and their wider groups and activities will be in a sustainable position. In part, this will be due to the support of their host organisation. A key expectation is that the organisation commits to continued strategic support for the fellows, their group and activities beyond the term of the fellowship.
Read more about the obligations of the research organisation.
A key feature of this strategic investment will be the management of the cohort of fellows as a group, in collaboration with other Turing AI fellows. Cohort activities will be led by UKRI in partnership with the Office for AI and The Alan Turing Institute. If successful in your application, you will be expected to engage with cohort activities.
Fellows and host organisations will be expected to periodically report against host organisation and project partner leverage, engagement and other support committed to in the full proposal. EPSRC will take appropriate action where this has not been realised.
Additional requirements on spending profile, reporting, monitoring and evaluation and extension will apply. This will be reflected in specific grant conditions. If funded, you will need to comply with them.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
Equality, diversity and inclusion enriches diversity of thought, builds stronger perspectives and performance within organisations and communities, and fosters more innovative and creative approaches. This is particularly pertinent in AI as the quality of the output from algorithms depends on assurances that the inherent biases of those involved in their development do not transfer into their design.
AI is increasingly being used in ways that can directly impact lives, and it is commonly agreed that a diverse AI community and workforce is likely to reduce bias and positively impact the development of fair, ethical and inclusive AI technologies. Investing in a diverse array of fellows of different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and career paths will enable greater diversity of thought and approach in AI. This is key to the development of a sustainable UK AI ecosystem, and the development of creative new AI technologies.
One of the primary aims of this programme is to invest in the most creative, innovative researchers, with the most diverse and exciting new approaches to AI. Host organisations are encouraged to actively use an inclusive approach to selecting and maximising the diversity of the candidates they intend to support.
Likewise, you will be expected to actively consider diversity and use an inclusive approach in the recruitment of your teams. UKRI expects that diversity is considered broadly to include backgrounds, career paths, thought, and approach as well as protected characteristics.
Peer review is central to EPSRC funding decisions. We require expert advice and robust decision-making processes for all EPSRC funding initiatives. We are committed to ensuring that fairness is fully reflected in all our funding processes by advancing policy which supports equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Read more about equality, diversity and inclusion at EPSRC.
Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research on the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure website for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting sensitive information.