Unlocking researchers’ potential: our vision for Discovery Research

Michael Dunn, Wellcome’s Director of Discovery Research, shares his ambitions for funding creative curiosity-driven research.

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Michael Dunn

Michael Dunn

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Unlocking researchers’ potential: our vision for Discovery Research
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For me, Discovery Research is all about venturing into the unknown and the realisation that there is a breathtaking amount to explore. The quest for knowledge and understanding is at the heart of all discoveries and at the heart of what I want to do at Wellcome. I want Wellcome to open up and build new fields of research which will have long-term impact. After all, when the structure of DNA was first discovered, who could have fathomed that the Human Genome Project would be complete and that the genome sequences of millions of humans would be available and used to understand and improve human health just 50 years later?  

In shaping Discovery Research at Wellcome, I want to unlock the potential of researchers by creating the conditions for them to be as creative and imaginative as possible in pursuing discoveries that can lead to solving health challenges.  

Just imagine what we might achieve if we gave researchers the time and freedom to be truly curious, even at an early career stage. Together, Wellcome can create the next generation of leaders who not only do great research but also create and nurture the environment in which it takes place.

Influencing the research ecosystem 

I want us to be able to amplify the research we fund by taking on ambitious initiatives that will impact the broader research ecosystem. These could be funding for new tools and technologies or spotting exciting opportunities to address barriers and bottlenecks which hamper progress in research. The potential here is vast and we don’t have all the answers, so we want to work with you to set our agenda. Tell us what you want to do, and we will listen.

Bringing fields together is one of the core themes that I’m placing at the heart of Discovery Research. Wellcome has a rich history of funding big, bold science, but by bringing a wider pool of fields and disciplines together, we can bring new perspectives and knowledge to really important questions. I know that this will take commitment from us, and it will not happen by accident. An important role for Discovery Research is to work with the research community to help create the conversations and connections that will lead to significant change in how we maximise the role of different disciplines in making great new discoveries.

I’ve been fortunate to visit universities and research institutions across the UK this year to talk about Wellcome’s new vision and our plan for Discovery Research. It’s been inspiring to hear from so many of our funded researchers and the passion from those challenging us on what we’re hoping to achieve. Our priority is to emphasise research culture, diversity and inclusion in everything we do in Discovery Research. As part of this we need to reach broader audiences, especially those outside the UK, and this is something we are committed to doing in the coming year.

"The potential here is vast, we don’t have all the answers, so we want to work with you to set our agenda."

Michael Dunn, Director of Discovery Research

Solving the health challenges of tomorrow 

We’ve funded really exciting research in the past. We’re proud of that. And we want to continue that legacy in a way that will make progress and push the boundaries. We know that there is a much wider pool of knowledge across many disciplines which can transform research on health, life and wellbeing but we can only fund the ideas you put in front of us. So, tell us what you want to do, and we will listen. Because, who knows – by tackling one big ambitious question today, you could be laying the foundation to solve the greatest health challenges of tomorrow.

  • Michael Dunn

    Director of Discovery Research


    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.