How to write a Wellcome grant application

We know that preparing funding applications is time-consuming and can be stressful, so we’ve put together some tips to help you write your Wellcome grant application. 

This advice applies to people applying to our Early-Career Awards, Career Development Awards and Discovery Awards.

Advice on writing your application for schemes closing on 24 August 2021

We have different advice on writing your application if you're applying to one of the following schemes: 

  • International Master's Fellowships
  • University Awards in Humanities and Social Science
  • Research Fellowships for Health Professionals
  • Research Fellowships in Humanities and Social Science.

Before you start to write 

Check you are eligible

Read all the guidance on the specific funding scheme page on our website. You’ll find information about eligibility and suitability, what we offer, how to apply and deadlines.

Make sure your research proposal is within our funding remit.

Gather all the information you need

If you want to get an idea of the information you’ll need to provide in your application, you can download a sample application form on a scheme page or look at the detailed online form on Grant Tracker.

There’s general funding information in the funding guidance section. If you can’t find the answer to your question, you can contact our grants information officers.

If you are disabled or have a long-term health condition, find out how we can support you.

Get as much advice as you can – ask other people if they are willing to share their successful and unsuccessful applications with you.

Contact the research support office at your host organisation early in the application process, so they can give you advice and let you know when they need to receive your application.

"Ideally researchers need to contact me when they first have the idea of applying – the earlier the better. We can check eligibility – if they’re not eligible they’ll lose a lot of time. We can also put them in contact with previous applicants who might be willing to share their application."

Silvia Maretto, Research Support Officer, NUI Galway

Make sure your proposal is competitive

Discuss your ideas with your sponsor, mentor, and/or senior colleagues. Get input from colleagues who are inside and outside your research field.

You should think about the following, and take it into account when you write your application:

Your research proposal

  • Importance of the research question(s): Will your proposal generate significant shifts in understanding in your field?
  • Quality and feasibility: Is your proposal well-designed? Do you have evidence to support your approach? Is there a clear rationale? What are the potential pitfalls and your contingency plans? Is the timescale realistic? Does your research team have the necessary skills and expertise?
  • CreativityIs your proposal just a direct continuation of existing work? Will it develop and test new concepts, methods or technologies? Will your proposal combine existing ideas and approaches in a new way? Does it have the potential to stimulate new and innovative research?
  • Knowledge: Can you show a breadth and depth of knowledge about your research area? Are other people doing similar research? Are you familiar with existing literature on the topic?
  • Teamwork: If you are applying with coapplicants, explain why a collaborative approach is necessary for this project.

You as an applicant

  • Timing: Is it the best time for you to apply? Is your CV as strong as possible in the context of the research you’re planning to carry out?
  • Experience: Does your CV demonstrate relevant experience and your ability to deliver what you propose?
  • Your contributions to researchHow have you contributed to developing new ideas, tools or techniques? Which of your research outputs is most relevant to your proposed research and what was your role in developing these outputs? How have you contributed to the wider research community? For example, contributions to conferences, to knowledge sharing activities or to improving research culture.
  • Career development: How will you use continuing professional development training to develop yourself and any staff employed on your grant? Have you demonstrated a commitment to developing your leadership and management skills?
  • Autonomy: Will you have intellectual ownership of the project? Will you be driving its development?

Your research environment

  • Research environmentHow will your chosen research environment support you to undertake your research? Do you have appropriate facilities? Have you identified sponsors, mentors or collaborators with the right expertise to support you and to make sure your project is a success?
  • Opportunities for developmentHow will your host organisation support you to develop as a researcher? Which skills will you have the opportunity to build? 
  • Your contribution to research cultureHow will you help to develop and maintain a positive and inclusive research culture within your host organisation? How will you support the development of other researchers?

"Successful applications provide answers to two key questions typically asked in review panels. First, how is this a new direction or approach that goes beyond the 'same-old' in the field? Second, how is the applicant positioned to do the work? Reviewers are excited when something new and exceptional is proposed that draws on a unique expertise of the applicant."

Professor Peter Robin Hiesinger, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience Expert Review Group at Wellcome

Writing your application 

Give yourself plenty of time

It’s really important that you avoid rushing your application. Allow plenty of time ahead of the deadline.

Check the specific funding scheme page for advice about your application, including deadlines and submissions.

Other timings that matter

Allow enough time for your application to be approved and submitted by the 'authorised organisational approver' at your host organisation. Make sure you’re aware of any deadlines at your organisation that could delay this.

Also check that anyone involved in your application, such as your sponsor, mentor or coapplicants, can meet the scheme deadline.

Make your application easy to read and understand

  • Aim your proposal at people who have specific expertise in your field as well as those who have broader research experience.
  • Provide a balanced overview of the background, rationale and supporting evidence. Refer to appropriate studies by others and use preliminary data, pilot studies and/or scoping research to support your research question(s).
  • Give enough detail that reviewers can understand what you’re proposing, how it will be carried out and whether it’s feasible.
  • Request research costs that are necessary for your project. Make sure you’re aware of what you can and cannot ask for – this information is available on the scheme page.
  • Use a title that is specific and reflects the importance of your proposal. Structure your writing with clear headings and subheadings.
  • Write in clear English and avoid technical jargon where possible. Keep abbreviations and acronyms to a minimum – define them when they’re first used.
  • List all references consistently, using the format requested.
  • Use diagrams and figures where appropriate.
  • Check your spelling and grammar.

"A well-written grant reflects appreciation for both the larger context and attention to detail. The relevance in a larger context should be highlighted in a few clear and concise statements that reviewers outside the field can pick up on. Attention to detail is important when it comes to a thoughtful presentation of potential outcomes and alternative approaches."

Professor Peter Robin Hiesinger, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience Expert Review Group at Wellcome

"Include sub-headings in your main research statement, and make sure it is clearly laid out using the same font, text size and paragraph justification throughout. Reviewers have a lot of applications to read – make it easy for them to see what you want to do!"

Dr Alex Mold, Investigator Award grantholder in Humanities and Social Science

Using our online application system 

You’ll need to log in to our online application system Grant Tracker to apply. If you haven’t used it before, do this at an early stage so that you can familiarise yourself with the system. Find out how to use Grant Tracker.

When you’re filling in the application:

  • Read the instructions carefully. Don’t forget to look at the pop-up help text which offers additional information.
  • Complete every field on the form and upload any relevant supporting documents and figures.

You can save your online application as you go along and return to it at any time before the deadline.

And finally, ask your sponsor, mentor and/or senior colleagues to read your application critically before you submit it.

Contact us 

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

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