This Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowship programme will invest in the strategic retention and international recruitment of a small number of world-leading AI researchers, with significant packages of support to enable the building of centres of excellence in key areas of AI research. It will enable international leaders in addressing the methodological and theoretical challenges of AI to move to, or remain in, the UK whilst maintaining the momentum of their research programmes.
It is expected that fellows will:
- establish a world leading centre of excellence, building new capability and capacity in a strategically important area of AI research
- lead a major programme of AI research, translation, and innovation
- build strong relationships and collaborations with academia, business, and broader stakeholders in the UK and internationally
- act as a leader in the community and as an ambassador, and advocate for it, driving forward the UK and international AI research agenda
- develop the skills and careers of their teams, developing the independent researchers and innovators of the future
- actively engage with the design of AI for use, seeking to address challenges in areas such as ethics, robustness, fairness, security, auditability, and resilience throughout their research in any context, building on the principles of responsible research and innovation (RRI) throughout their 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.
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. Furthermore, investing in a diverse array of fellows of different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and career paths will enable greater diversity of thought and of approach in AI. That 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, fellows will be expected to actively consider diversity and use an inclusive approach in the recruitment of their teams. UKRI expects that diversity is considered broadly to include backgrounds, career paths, thought, and approach as well as protected characteristics.
The long-term strength of the UK research base depends on harnessing all the available talent. EPSRC expects that equality and diversity is embedded at all levels and in all aspects of research practice and funding policy. We are committed to supporting the research community, offering a range of flexible options which allow applicants to design a package that fits their research goals, career and personal circumstances. This includes career breaks, support for people with caring responsibilities, flexible working, and alternative working patterns. With this in mind, we welcome applications from researchers who job share, have a part-time contract, or need flexible working arrangements.
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.
See our equality and diversity webpages for further information.
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.
It is expected that collaborations will build a mutually beneficial two-way relationship based on expertise, secondments in both directions, products, and infrastructures. However, 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.
It is recognised that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may make it more challenging for project partners to be confirmed at the time the proposal is written. Clear plans for engaging with new and existing collaborators over the duration of the fellowship should be detailed in the case for support.
EPSRC is fully committed to develop and promote responsible innovation.
Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations. We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor, and to encourage our research community to do likewise.
Responsible innovation creates spaces and processes to explore innovation and its consequences in an open, inclusive, and timely way, going beyond consideration of ethics, public engagement, risk, and regulation. Innovation is a collective responsibility, where funders, researchers, and interested and affected parties, including the public, all have an important role to play. Applicants are expected to work within the EPSRC Framework for Responsible Innovation given on the EPSRC website.
Up to £18 million is available to fund a small number of sizable awards (£3 million to 5 million) for up to five years. Awards will be required to start by 1 October 2021.
Applicants are expected to request a significant package of resource, designed in partnership with their host organisation and collaborative partners to provide the best support for their research agenda. This might include relocation costs, attractive packages for staff, access to data and infrastructure and other standard research grant costs.
Fellows are expected to build interdisciplinary teams including post-doctoral research assistants, research software engineers, and data scientists. Resources may be used for research expenses including travel, equipment, research technical support including research software engineers, PDRA and fellow salaries, training, and other standard expenses. Relocation costs are also permitted. For international recruits up to £100,000 may be requested to set up their research activity in the UK. Resources may be used for activities to initiate, grow and maintain collaborations with stakeholders (for example academia, business, government, third sector) such as secondments, staff exchanges and regular travel.
Support for studentships is exceptionally permitted through this investment where this can be clearly justified. Student engagement may also be realised through institutional or stakeholder support, or collaboration with the UKRI AI CDTs.
See further information on allowable costs.
It is expected that resources will be used flexibly to deliver the outcomes of the programme. Detailed resourcing estimations will therefore only be required for the first two years of the investment, with a decision making methodology for subsequent planning.
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 to increase the attractiveness of the award. However, 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.
It is not expected that fellows will commit 100% of their contracted time (FTE) 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 the fellow’s main identity. Fellows may start their award with less than 50% FTE but should ramp up their commitment to a minimum of 50% FTE within six months of the award start date.
By the final year of the award it is expected that fellows will have developed their portfolio beyond the fellowship and should therefore have a maximum of 50% FTE to enable broader portfolio development. With this in mind fellows should design an appropriate time commitment over the duration of the award to deliver their research vision.
Where appropriate, fellows may benefit from a range of opportunities and support from the Alan Turing Institute, for example access to the institute’s university partner network or the Research Engineering Group (REG). Applicants should liaise with the institute (AIFellowships@turing.ac.uk) if they wish to request specific institute resource, for example REG time, events support and so on, as part of their application and to ensure appropriate costings are included.
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, and they will not offer letters of support to any candidates.
The fellowship must start by 1 October 2021 and no extensions will be given for delays in the appointment of staff. Therefore, when putting together the proposal, the recruitment time for staff required should be taken into consideration. In other words, if it is estimated that it will take six months to recruit a PDRA then 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 2020 to 2021 academic year with no account for inflation. UKRI will index the grant as appropriate to account for cost changes over the grant lifetime.
Please note: due to the nature of this funding, grant extensions will only be considered under exceptional circumstances (in line with the Equality Act 2010) and will 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.
Funds for doctoral students may exceptionally be applied for as part of this call. 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 which combine doctoral and post-doctoral research and build leadership for the future in key areas of AI.
The inclusion of doctoral studentships must add value to the proposed research, and to the student compared to UKRI’s existing training grant routes. 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. The fellowship must be viable without the studentship with distinctive objectives that are not reliant upon the studentship(s). Applicants should clearly explain the benefit to the student(s) of being part of the research team.
The host organisation should have a track record of training engineering and physical sciences (EPS) doctoral students and it is expected that there are EPS doctoral students training concurrently with students supported by the fellowship. The fellow is expected to have completed any supervisor training required to be familiar with supervising within a UK HEI, before students start their studies. Where the fellow has been recruited from abroad the student should be assigned a co-supervisor with experience of training UK-based EPS doctoral students.
Doctoral students supported through the fellowship must be provided with the opportunity to develop their substantive research skills as well as with broader professional development opportunities. Evidence of an appropriate training environment that meets the UKRI expectations for doctoral training should be provided.
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 2021 to 2022 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. In order 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. Fellows should ensure that they have sufficient time to supervise students but this time should not be charged to the grant.
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.
As a minimum, the UKRI stipend and indicative fees must be met; enhanced stipends are permitted where this has been justified in the application. Student fees and stipends and research training support costs 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 and consumables. Indirect and estate costs are not applicable to studentships and supervisor costs are ineligible.
For further details on funding for studentships see appendix one of the call document and the guidance on how to find studentships and doctoral training.
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.
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. However, a 50% contribution to the cost of the equipment from other sources is required.
Additional justification of the requirement for individual items of equipment between £10,000 and £400,000, and details of the proposed contribution to the cost of the equipment, must be provided in the Justification of Resources (JoR). For any items or combined assets with a value above £138,000 (including value added tax (VAT)) a two-page Equipment Business Case must also be included in the proposal documentation.
Any items of equipment with a value in excess of £138,000 (including value added tax (VAT)) that are funded on research will 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.
Further details on equipment funding.
Post award expectations
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. Fellows 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.
Please note that due to the nature of this funding, additional requirements on spending profile, reporting, monitoring and evaluation and extension will apply. This will be reflected in specific grant conditions and those funded will need to comply with them.
Expectations of the host organisation
Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships are a strategic investment intended to build capability and capacity in the UK in the development of novel AI technologies. Host organisations should be able to clearly describe their long term strategy for AI, how it complements the UK landscape, and how they anticipate the fellow will enable them to deliver their strategy.
The host organisation will play a key role in the retention and recruitment of global talent in AI. 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, notably 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 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 and a key expectation of the host organisational support will be that the organisation commits to longitudinal strategic support for the fellows, their group and activities beyond the term of the fellowship.
The host organisation statement is an important feature of this award which should draw on the discussions between the proposed fellow and head of department or other senior recruiting colleague. 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.