Press release

Wellcome Trust seeks world class researchers to tackle most ambitious biomedical research questions

The Wellcome Trust today announces a major new scheme to support world class researchers to investigate the most challenging questions about health and disease, push the boundaries of research, and make discoveries with the potential to lead to improvements in health.

Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards will provide researchers and their teams with the support to pursue individual, bold visions without constraints. The awards will give researchers the maximum amount of freedom to be creative and innovative in their approach. Their breakthroughs will increase our understanding of health and disease, and will lead to new technologies and treatments that can benefit patients.

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says: "The watchword of Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards will be flexibility, in length and scale of funding. The challenge to all research funders is to nurture and support the best scientists and enable them to ask the most important questions. We intend to provide Wellcome Trust Investigators with the creative opportunities and resources they need to tackle tough problems."

This new initiative builds on the Trust's highly successful fellowship schemes, which provide funding for scientists at all stages of their careers, and give them the flexibility and length of tenure to enable them to tackle important research questions. Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards will now extend the model of fellowship support to researchers who are salaried by their university or research institute.

Together with the Wellcome Trust's existing fellowships and Strategic Awards, the new Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards will help establish a community of researchers with the resources to interact and collaborate, build networks, translate knowledge and participate in public dialogue about science.

This marks a departure away from funding a large number of medium-term project and programme grants, which can tie researchers into a cycle of focusing on securing grants rather than tackling major research problems. Awards are expected to be for up to seven years. They will be awarded by interview, giving the opportunity for scientists to present and argue their cases to groups of world-class peer reviewers. The interviews will focus on the excellence of the applicant, the importance of the question to be addressed and the proposed approach to tackling the problem.

Investigator Awards will be made available at two levels of experience and seniority: Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards and Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Awards. Researchers during the early stages of their independent research careers have sometimes found it hard to obtain grant support in competition with more established colleagues. This is paradoxical since there is evidence that researchers at the start of their independent careers are at their most creative. The Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards will be specifically targeted at this group of researchers; Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Awards will be reserved for fully-established independent researchers.

In addition to these new awards, the Trust will be introducing Enhancement Awards, which will be available to Wellcome Trust Investigators and to some of our Research Fellows and Strategic Award holders. These will provide flexible additional funding to support evolving research programmes and could, for example, support equipment, collaborations, and additional research costs.

The new initiative has been welcomed by Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse, who comments: "The greatest breakthroughs in science and medicine arise when scientists are given the freedom - and trust - to pursue their own vision independently. The Wellcome Trust is taking a bold step in moving away from project and programme grants towards longer and more ambitious Wellcome Trust Investigator awards which will demand innovation and forward thinking."

Since it was established in 1936 through an endowment in the will of Sir Henry Wellcome, the Wellcome Trust has become one of the world's largest funders of medical research. Researchers funded by the Trust in recent years have played pivotal roles in sequencing and interpreting the human genome, tackling major infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV and TB, and in furthering our understanding of the complex workings of the brain.