Wellcome Discovery Awards

This scheme provides funding for established researchers and teams from any discipline who want to pursue bold and creative research ideas to deliver significant shifts in understanding related to human life, health and wellbeing. 

Scheme at a glance 

Lead applicant career stage:
Administering organisation location:
Three times a year - Upcoming deadlines in July and December 2024
Funding amount:

You should ask for the resources you need for your research programme – see the 'Research costs we'll cover' section on this page. You will need to justify this in your application. The average size of a Discovery Award is £3.5 million, although we have supported awards from £700,000 to £8 million. Applications above £5 million will be subject to additional due diligence.

Funding duration:

Awards can be up to 8 years, but may be less for some disciplines, and may be longer if held on a part-time basis. The average duration of a Discovery Award is 7 years, although we have supported awards from 3 to 8 years.


Deadline for new applications

Calculating next key date…
View all key dates

Who can apply 

You can apply for a Wellcome Discovery Award if you are a researcher who wants to pursue bold and creative research ideas. You must aim to make a major contribution to your research field by:

  • generating significant shifts in understanding


  • developing methodologies, conceptual frameworks, tools or techniques that could benefit health-related research.

An award can be held by an established researcher or a team of researchers led by an established researcher.

Team size will depend on the proposed research. It will usually range from two to eight applicants, including the lead applicant.

We encourage lead applicants to put together diverse teams. You will be expected to actively promote a diverse, inclusive and supportive research environment within your team and across your organisation.

Other Wellcome awards

An established researcher can be a lead applicant on two Discovery Awards:

  • one as sole applicant and one as lead applicant for a team, or 
  • both as a lead applicant for a team.

They can also be a coapplicant on up two other Wellcome awards.

Current holders of Investigator Awards and Senior Research Fellowships cannot be a sole applicant for a Discovery Award. They may be the lead applicant for a team on a Discovery Award and a coapplicant on up to two other Discovery Awards or Collaborative Awards.

Researchers cannot be a coapplicant on more than two Discovery Awards.

Read about the different applicant roles at Wellcome and how many awards you can apply for or hold at one time.


If you are unsuccessful with an application to this scheme, you can submit one more full application for the same project. Significant changes are needed for the second application. You do not need to contact us first.

Who can't apply 

You are not eligible to apply as a lead applicant on a Discovery Award if you are the lead applicant on two other Discovery Award applications and you are waiting for a decision.

You cannot apply if you intend to carry out activities that involve the transfer of grant funds into mainland China.

Is your research right for this scheme? 

You must check whether Wellcome Discovery Research can fund your type of research project before you apply.

Check what we fund in Discovery Research

Your research must:

Your research can:

  • be in any discipline - including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), experimental medicine, humanities and social science, clinical/allied health sciences, and public health
  • be in a single discipline or multidisciplinary.

Your research must not:

  • fall outside of what we support in Discovery Research. Check what we don't fund.
  • start earlier than seven months after the application deadline.

Is your organisation right for this scheme? 

The administering organisation is the organisation responsible for submitting your final application to Wellcome and managing the finances of the grant if it is awarded.

The lead applicant must be based at an eligible administering organisation that can sign up to our grant conditions.

Where your administering organisation is based

The administering organisation must be in one of the following:

The organisation can be a not-for-profit:

  • higher education institution
  • research institute
  • non-academic healthcare organisation
  • charity or social enterprise.

What's expected of lead applicant and coapplicant organisations

We expect organisations based in the UK to meet the responsibilities required by the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers for institutions, managers and researchers.

Any organisation with Wellcome funding that is based outside the UK is expected, at a minimum, to follow the principles of the Concordat.

Read the Concordat

We also expect organisations to:

  • Guarantee that the space and resources you need have been agreed and will be made available to you from the start date through to the end date of your award.
  • Explain how your research fits with the strategic aims of the organisation.
  • Give you, and any staff employed on the grant, 10 days a year (pro rata if part-time) to undertake training and continuing professional development (CPD) in line with the Concordat. This should include the responsible conduct of research, research leadership, people management, diversity and inclusion, and the promotion of a healthy research culture.
  • Provide a system of onboarding, embedding and planning for you when you join the organisation and/or start the award.

If your organisation is a core-funded research organisation, a Discovery Award should not replace or lead to a reduction in existing or planned core support.

How applications are assessed 

We will review your research proposal, skills and experience, and research environment. The assessment weightings are used at interview stage.

Your research proposal (50%)

To be competitive, your research proposal will be:

  • Bold. It aims to deliver a significant shift in understanding and/or it provides a significant advance over existing methodologies, conceptual frameworks, tools or techniques. It has the potential to stimulate new and innovative research.
  • Creative. Your proposed approach is novel – it develops and tests new concepts, methods or technologies, or combines existing ideas and approaches in a new way.
  • High quality. It is well-designed, clear, supported by evidence and the proposed outcomes/outputs are feasible.

Your skills and experience (applicants and coapplicants) (25%)

We will review:

  • your research outputs and contributions to the research community
  • your previous contributions to, and plans for, developing team members and other researchers
  • your leadership and management skills, and how you plan to develop these during the award
  • how the programme will be managed and led
  • your rationale for a team approach, team composition (including your approach to diversity, inclusion and career stage) and the contribution of each team member.

Your research environment (25%)

We will review:

  • how you will contribute to the strategic aims of your organisation
  • how your research environment(s) will help you develop your research capabilities, and leadership and management skills
  • your experience of, and plans for, contributing to a positive and inclusive research culture.

Research costs we'll cover 

A Wellcome Discovery Award provides funding for research expenses.

The award usually lasts for 8 years, but may be less for some disciplines, such as humanities and social science.

The award may be held on a part-time basis. When applying, you should cost the application at 1.0 (100%) full-time equivalent. We will then extend the duration of the award to reflect this.

You should ask for a level and duration of funding that’s appropriate for your proposed research. You will need to justify these costs in your grant application.

The award includes:

What we don't offer

The award does not include salary costs for the lead applicant, unless you:

  • are based in a low- or middle-income country, and
  • hold a permanent, open-ended or long-term rolling contract, and 
  • have to get your salary from external grant funding.

We only provide a salary for coapplicants in certain circumstances - see 'staff costs' for further details.

See 'Other costs' for the costs we will and will not provide.

How to apply 

Where to apply

Apply for this scheme on the Wellcome Funding platform. You will need to log in or create an account. You can save your application and return to it at any time.

Get some tips to help you write your grant application.

Information you need to provide

As well as answering the application questions, you must provide:

  • a letter support from each organisation (of the lead applicant and any coapplicants)
  • a letter of support from the director of finance at the administering organisation or any indirectly funded organisation requesting overheads, confirming the breakdown is a true representation of the costs incurred.

If you have less that three years remaining on your contract at the point of application, you must have secured your next position at an eligible organisation and provide a letter of support from them.

How long it takes to apply

You must leave enough time for:

  • you and any coapplicants to complete the application
  • your administering organisation to review and submit the application.

Getting support with your application

We offer disability-related support for applicants. Read the disability-related support guidance if you:

  • are disabled or have a long-term health condition and you need help applying for funding
  • need to defer your application
  • need help completing your project, for example costs for assistive technology.

Application process

  1. Before you apply

    Make sure you read everything on this page.

    Get some tips to help you write your grant application.

    You do not need to contact us before you write and submit your application.

  2. Submit your application to your administering organisation for approval

    Complete your application form on Wellcome Funding.

    View the sample full application for for Wellcome Discovery Awards [PDF 1.43MB].

    Submit the application form to the authorised approver at your administering organisation for approval. Make sure you leave enough time for the approver to review and submit your application before the deadline. The approver may ask you to make changes to your application.

  3. Administering organisation reviews your application and submits it to us

    Your application must be submitted by 17:00 (GMT/BST) on the deadline day. Review our guidance for research offices on using the Wellcome Funding platform.

  4. Shortlisting

    We will check your eligibility for the scheme and that your application demonstrates how you will meet the aims of the scheme. If your application is ineligible or does not demonstrate how you will meet the aims of the scheme, we will withdraw your application and contact you to explain why.

    One of the following Discovery Advisory Groups will then review your application, depending on your area of research:

    If shortlisted, we will invite you for interview.

  5. Written expert review

    We'll seek external written expert review on shortlisted applications. Only the proposed research will be reviewed.

    Reviewers will be chosen based on their expertise within the relevant research field and not on their level of seniority.

    Unattributed comments will be sent to you before your interview.

  6. Interviews

    A committee will interview shortlisted candidates at the Wellcome offices in London. Accessibility requirements will be accommodated. Those who cannot attend in person can participate remotely.

    We will provide information on the structure of the interview, layout of the room, and interview committee membership.

    You will be asked to give a presentation at the start of your interview. Shortly before the day of the interview, you will need to provide us with your presentation slides.

    The focus of the interview will be on questions and answers. The committee will assess across a set of criteria rather than one specific aspect of the proposal.

  7. Funding decision

    Final funding decisions will be made by the Discovery Research Decision Board.

    You will receive an email notification of the funding decision soon after the decision has been made. We will write to you after this with the reasons for the decision.

We may use positive action on this scheme. Read our guidance for more information.

Key dates 

You must submit your application by 17:00 (GMT/BST) on the deadline day. We don’t accept late applications.

July 2024 round

Opening soon

  1. 17 April 2024

    Applications open

  2. 30 July 2024, 17:00 BST

    Application deadline

  3. October 2024


  4. 21-23 January 2025


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