Press release

Wellcome launches discovery research schemes with greater funding and longer support

Giving researchers more freedom, time and financial resources to pursue their ideas is at the heart of Wellcome’s three new funding schemes that will encompass discovery research.

The new schemes will be open to researchers from any discipline and are an important element of Wellcome’s new strategy, launched in 2020. Wellcome will support discovery research across a wide range of disciplines that have the potential to make important and unanticipated discoveries about life, health and wellbeing. The schemes will open for applications in late summer 2021.

The three new simplified schemes offer flexibility with researchers able to ask for the level and duration of funding needed to deliver their work:

The Early-Career and Career Development awards will focus on helping researchers develop their research identity, autonomy and leadership skills to prepare them for their next career steps.

Researchers applying to these schemes are asked to appoint a sponsor and mentor to provide support and guidance. The Career Development Awards will also require administering organisations to provide grantholders with a permanent position or hold a formal review to discuss their progress and opportunities at the administering organisation for after the award.

Discovery Awards will support individuals and teams to make significant shifts in our understanding of a health-related issue. This could be through new insights or the generation of new tools or methods that facilitate health-related research.

We’re giving researchers the freedom to ask the most exciting questions in their research. Advances in health can come from unexpected sources and from any discipline and being open about where developments come from means we help sustain a broad range of research.

Michael Dunn, Director of Discovery Research

Increased flexibility and support 

To support this, researchers in disciplines that don’t traditionally have a PhD as part of their academic progression, who apply to the Early-Career Awards, will not need to hold a PhD. Instead they will need to demonstrate at least four years of relevant experience. The schemes are also open to researchers who have taken a break from research, for example because of family commitments, and who want to re-establish their careers.

To give researchers more freedom, Wellcome will not hold mid-term reviews and grantholders will be able to take time away from their administering organisation and flex their budget to suit their research.

Wellcome’s new Discovery Research schemes are designed to give researchers the freedom and flexibility needed to make the insights that can transform human health.  

We’re working on our assessment and review processes to ensure that diversity, inclusion and a positive research culture are promoted through them all.

Alyson Fox, Director of Grants at Wellcome

Wellcome will also be changing its requirements so that administering organisations have to provide greater support for researchers. This includes allowing all staff on grants 10 days a year for training or continuing professional development (CPD).

Across all schemes there’s an emphasis on promoting diverse, inclusive cultures. For example, team leaders are encouraged to put together diverse teams.