Introducing our new science strategy

After almost a year as Director of Science, Jim Smith gives an update on our new approach to science funding: Improving health through the best research.

Wellcome's director of science Jim Smith
Jim Smith: "It’s a good time to discuss Wellcome’s approach to funding science."

I have been Director of Science at Wellcome for 10 months now. During this time I’ve been learning how Wellcome works and spending as much time as possible meeting the people we support, both in the UK and abroad. With my first anniversary coming up, it’s a good time to set out our stall and discuss Wellcome’s approach to funding science. 

I set out this approach today in our new science strategy: Improving health through the best research [PDF 1.04MB]. The strategy outlines what we plan to do over the next five years and how we plan to do it. It has four broad aims:

  • creating knowledge
  • strengthening research capability
  • using knowledge effectively
  • promoting an environment in which research can flourish.

The strategy builds on the fantastic work Wellcome has already funded over the past 80 years, and it will contribute to our mission to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. It recognises that science changes quickly. We want to take advantage of Wellcome’s independence and flexibility by being bold and imaginative, by taking risks, and by working with the research community to achieve our ends.

We will continue to draw on the knowledge of experts in different disciplines and from around the world. A new Science Strategic Advisory Group, including experts from different research disciplines, will help us review and adapt our activities so that we continue to fund the best science.

Wellcome’s new funding approach, involving Primary and Reserve Funds, will provide us with stable support for our activities. Thus, over the next five years we will commit at least £600 million a year – about two-thirds of the primary fund – to the Science team’s open mode funding and to strategic investments such as the Sanger Institute, Wellcome Centres, and our Africa and Asia Programmes.

Our new science strategy draws on conversations with colleagues at Wellcome and on experience from my previous lives – as a research scientist, an institute director, and latterly in a funding organisation. But, most importantly, it is informed by conversations with the people we support – at researcher meetings, during visits to universities, centres and institutes, and through chance encounters. I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to these discussions.

We look forward to working with you as we implement our strategy, and we encourage everyone to contact us with their comments and questions.

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