Opinion

Our new funding will support bold and creative discovery research to improve health

I am delighted to be able to share more information about our new discovery research funding schemes, and the role of the Discovery Research team in Wellcome’s new strategy.

A female researcher wearing a face shield and gloves carries out research.

A researcher carries out research at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford.

Credit:

Thomas S.G. Farnetti / Wellcome

At the heart of our new strategy is the recognition that advances in health often come from unexpected sources, and that curiosity-driven research is vital to understanding how life works. 

By focusing on discovery research, we want to enable researchers to be ambitious, take on difficult problems, and adopt creative and innovative approaches to push the boundaries of our understanding of life, health and wellbeing. 

We know that the work we will support will have positive unforeseen applications and significance, and we also believe that this strong base of discovery will be hugely important to address the three global health challenges that we’re also taking on through the strategy: infectious disease, mental health and climate and health

We are proud of the thousands of researchers we have supported over the years, and we have benefited hugely from the relationships we have built with them. The Discovery Research team will continue this work, but we will be bolder and more ambitious in how we support our researchers. 

The focus of our new schemes 

A key component of our discovery research work will be three new funding schemes: 

These schemes consolidate what was often a confusing maze of funding routes which were difficult to navigate and even harder to understand if you were not 'in the system' or applying from a non-UK university.

They are designed to support bold and creative research ideas across a broad range of disciplines. We will fund people at all career stages, as long as the research is related to human biology, health and disease. 

We will support individual, team and interdisciplinary research, as well as the development of methodologies, conceptual frameworks, tools and techniques.

Inclusivity is at the heart of our approach 

Through these schemes we will be offering more resources and flexibility: researchers will be able to ask for whatever’s needed and take the time they need to deliver their work. 

We want to reach new communities and attract new disciplines. And we’re changing requirements to recognise researchers who may not fit neatly into the traditional UK life sciences career track.

We want to be able to recognise and reward the various different outputs of researchers and their teams, looking beyond publications, and considering their contributions to management, leadership and diversity. 

We also want researchers to commit to promoting diverse, inclusive cultures in their environment, with everyone benefiting from supportive professional relationships no matter their level or background.

What's next? 

The funding schemes will not be the only focus of discovery research at Wellcome. There may be areas that we identify that need extra support or funding to get things kick-started. We also want to develop a strategic approach to supporting Wellcome-funded centres and enabling research infrastructures. 

Our relationships with you all will be vital for the work we aim to do, and we want to learn about and help you to address the challenges you face in your own fields and careers. We are looking forward to embarking on this ambitious journey together. 

  • A photograph of the person, Michael Dunn.

    Michael Dunn

    Director of Discovery Research

    Wellcome

    Michael is responsible for developing, managing and overseeing an exciting and world-leading portfolio of research at Wellcome. Before taking on the role of Director of Discovery Research he led the management of Wellcome’s Genetics and Molecular Sciences portfolio.  

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