Discovery Research

Our mission is to generate new knowledge that could transform health in ways we can't always anticipate today.

We fund researchers across fields, disciplines and career stages. And we're changing how research is done, through improved tools, technology, methods and culture.

A man is presenting in front of a large screen that shows some data and colourful imagery.

The challenge 

We need new knowledge about life, health and wellbeing. But short-term goals in research are stifling ambition. Our financial and political independence means we can advance discoveries through a longer-term outlook that better supports researchers and invests in the tools, methodologies, technologies and research cultures that could transform health. 

Through longer-term funding, support for improved research environments and advocating for policy action, we're creating the conditions to improve health for everyone.

Our goals 

Transformative knowledge

Research we fund across fields and disciplines generates new knowledge with the potential to transform life, health and wellbeing in ways that we may not have anticipated.

New generation of diverse research leaders

Researchers have the resources, time and freedom to develop their skills and potential.

Productive research environments

Advanced tools, technologies, methodologies and a thriving research culture are in place. This enables innovation and success in research.

Our approach 

Funding research

We're generating new knowledge with the potential to improve life, health and wellbeing. We don’t always know where new breakthroughs will come from, so our scope in discovery research is deliberately broad.

We run funding opportunities based on career stage three times a year. Research can involve observational, experimental or theoretical approaches. It can be carried out in the laboratory, office, clinic or field. 

We're also creating the conditions for innovation through directed funding for institutions and major initiatives

For example, we support critical research fields such as bioimaging and genomics. 

Explore funded people and projects

Creating better research cultures

We are dedicated to improving research environments, ensuring that researchers have the necessary freedom, resources and time to develop their skills. We also work to break down barriers to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary research. 

By doing this we encourage different questions to be asked, leading to new ideas and breakthroughs. 

Learn how we’re improving research environments

Enabling innovation

We are working to improve the wider research ecosystem. We do this by supporting the development of tools, technologies and methodologies for innovation and success, and by bringing together the right expertise in the right environments. 

For example, our Discovery Research Platforms are a £73 million investment to overcome practical, technological and methodological barriers in research.

Funding opportunities

We run recurring Discovery Research awards three times a year. These are for researchers at different career stages across all disciplines as long as the research has the potential to improve life, health and wellbeing.

Find out what we will and won’t fund in our Discovery Research programme

What is Discovery Research?

Discovery Research is our programme covering studies across fields and disciplines that lead to new knowledge of life, health and wellbeing. 

We don't know where the next breakthrough will come from, so our scope is deliberately broad. We fund projects that range from the fundamentals of biology to the development of new methods, tools and technologies. We also fund population health studies exploring the social, ethical, cultural, political, economic and historical contexts of human health. 

We also accept applications related to our strategic programmes: Climate and Health, Infectious Disease and Mental Health.

Our work in action 

Our team 

  • Michael Dunn

    Director of Discovery Research


  • Christiane Hertz-Fowler

    Head of Directed Activity


  • Morag Foreman

    Head of Discovery Researchers


  • Ben Murton

    Head of Early Career and Career Development Researchers


  • Martin Smith

    Head of Policy Lab


    Connect with Martin:

  • Matthew Brown

    Head of Digital Technology, Discovery Research and Mental Health


  • Tom Collins

    Research Lead - Atomic and Molecules


  • Katrina Gold

    Research Lead - Cells, Systems and Circuits


    Connect with Katrina:

  • Luigi Martino

    Research Lead - Tissues, Organs and Organisms


    Connect with Luigi:

  • Paul Meller

    Research Lead - Populations and Society


Our latest report 

How the next UK government can support research

The UK government can improve both the economy and people’s health by investing in research. Our manifesto for science outlines three priorities for an incoming government – and why they matter.