How to write a Wellcome grant application for schemes closing on 24 August 2021

We know that preparing funding applications is time-consuming and can be stressful, so we’ve put together some tips to help you write your Wellcome grant application for schemes closing on 24 August 2021.

Before you start to write 

Check you are eligible

Read all the guidance on the specific funding scheme page on our website. You’ll find information about eligibility and suitability, what we offer, how to apply and deadlines.

Find out more about the grants awarded under the specific scheme that you’re interested in.

Make sure your research proposal is within our remit for Science or Humanities and Social Science funding.

See what we offer at key career stages, to check this is the best Wellcome scheme for you.

Gather all the information you need

If you want to get an idea of the information you’ll need to provide in your application, you can download a sample application form on a scheme page or look at the detailed online form on Grant Tracker.

There’s general funding information in the funding guidance section. If you can’t find the answer to your question, check the specific funding scheme page for details about who to contact.

If you are disabled or have a long-term health condition, find out how we can support you.

Get as much advice as you can – ask other people if they are willing to share their successful and unsuccessful applications with you.

Contact the research support office at your administering organisation early in the application process so they can give you advice and let you know when they need to receive your application.

"Ideally researchers need to contact me when they first have the idea of applying – the earlier the better. We can check eligibility – if they’re not eligible they’ll lose a lot of time. We can also put them in contact with previous applicants who might be willing to share their application."

Silvia Maretto, Research Support Officer, NUI Galway

Watch our animation to get some more tips on how to write a Wellcome grant application.

Make sure your proposal is competitive

Discuss your ideas with your sponsor, mentor, supervisor and/or senior colleagues. Get input from colleagues who are inside and outside your research field.

You should think about the following, and take it into account when you write your application:

Your career stage

  • Timing: Is it the best time for you to apply? Is your CV as strong as possible in the context of the research you’re planning to carry out?
  • Track record: In terms of your proposed research, do you have a strong track record relative to your career stage? For example, have you been awarded funding before? Have you spoken at conferences on your topic? Have you published any peer-reviewed papers, or are you currently preparing any?
  • Experience: Does your CV demonstrate relevant experience and your ability to deliver what you propose?
  • Career development: What are your long-term aspirations and how will this scheme support them?
  • Autonomy: Will you have intellectual ownership of the project? Will you be driving its development?

Your research proposal

  • Quality and importance of the research question(s): Is your project likely to make a significant impact in your research field?
  • Feasibility: Do you have evidence to support your approach? Is there a clear rationale? What are the potential pitfalls and your contingency plans? Is the timescale realistic?
  • Innovation: Is your proposal just a direct continuation of existing work? Are you making the most of recent advances in your field, for example new techniques or research methodologies?
  • Knowledge: Can you show a breadth and depth of knowledge about your research area? How would you engage with ongoing debates? Are other people doing similar research? Are you familiar with existing literature on the topic?
  • Location and collaborators: Is your research location suitable for your project and career development? Do you have appropriate facilities? Have you identified sponsors, mentors, supervisors and/or collaborators with the right expertise to help make sure your project is a success?
  • Institutional support: Can your administering organisation provide any extra support, for example career development opportunities?

"Successful applications provide answers to two key questions typically asked in review panels. First, how is this a new direction or approach that goes beyond the 'same-old' in the field? Second, how is the applicant positioned to do the work? Reviewers are excited when something new and exceptional is proposed that draws on a unique expertise of the applicant."

Professor Peter Robin Hiesinger, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience Expert Review Group at Wellcome

Writing your application 

Give yourself plenty of time

It’s really important that you avoid rushing your application. Allow plenty of time ahead of the deadline.

Check the specific funding scheme page for advice about your application, including deadlines and submissions.

Some schemes require a preliminary application, which we use to assess your eligibility, competitiveness and the resources you’ve requested. If your proposal is successful we’ll invite you to submit a full application.

Other timings that matter

Allow enough time for your application to be approved and submitted by the 'authorised organisational approver' at your administering organisation. Make sure you’re aware of any deadlines at your organisation that could delay this.

Also check that anyone involved in your application, such as your sponsor, supervisor or collaborator, can meet the scheme deadline.

Make your application easy to read and understand

  • Aim your proposal at people who have specific expertise in your field as well as those who have broader research experience.
  • Provide a balanced overview of the background, rationale and supporting evidence. Refer to appropriate studies by others and use preliminary data, pilot studies and/or scoping research to support your research question(s).
  • Give enough detail that reviewers can understand what you’re proposing, how it will be carried out and whether it’s feasible.
  • Request research costs that are necessary for your project. Make sure you’re aware what you can and cannot ask for – this information is available on the scheme page.
  • Use a title that is specific and reflects the importance of your proposal. Structure your writing with clear headings and subheadings.
  • Write in clear English and avoid technical jargon where possible. Keep abbreviations and acronyms to a minimum – define them when they’re first used.
  • List all references consistently, using the format requested.
  • Use diagrams and figures where appropriate.
  • Check your spelling and grammar.

"A well-written grant reflects appreciation for both the larger context and attention to detail. The relevance in a larger context should be highlighted in a few clear and concise statements that reviewers outside the field can pick up on. Attention to detail is important when it comes to a thoughtful presentation of potential outcomes and alternative approaches."

Professor Peter Robin Hiesinger, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience Expert Review Group at Wellcome

"Include sub-headings in your main research statement, and make sure it is clearly laid out using the same font, text size and paragraph justification throughout. Reviewers have a lot of applications to read – make it easy for them to see what you want to do!"

Dr Alex Mold, Investigator Award grantholder in Humanities and Social Science

Using our online application system 

For most of our schemes, you’ll need to log in to our online application system Grant Tracker to apply. If you haven’t used it before, do this at an early stage so that you can familiarise yourself with the system. Find out how to use Grant Tracker.

When you’re filling in the application:

  • Read the instructions carefully. Don’t forget to look at the pop-up help text which offers additional information.
  • Complete every field on the form and upload any relevant supporting documents and figures.

You can save your online application as you go along and return to it at any time before the deadline.

And finally, ask your sponsor, mentor, supervisor and/or senior colleagues to read your application critically before you submit it.

More information 

Contact us 

Contact our Funding Information Advisers if you have a question about funding.

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