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First Future Leaders Fellowships give the freedom to deliver global impact

A new generation of rising stars across research and business will tackle pressing global challenges through UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships initiative. 

The prestigious Future Leaders Fellowships, supported by a £900 million investment fund, provide researchers and innovators from diverse backgrounds and career paths with the flexibility and time they need to make progress on truly challenging questions.

Announced today, the first wave of 41 fellows will investigate a diverse range of challenges from the effects of poverty on child development to climate change and next generation mobile networks, with the time, freedom and encouragement to cross boundaries and disciplines in pursuit of excellence

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said:

“The Future Leaders Fellowships offer long-term support for the most talented researchers and innovators. Fellows will be encouraged to be adventurous in tackling tough and important research questions and opportunities for innovation.

“The Fellowships offer opportunities to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry. These Fellowships will enable us to grow the strong supply of talented individuals needed to ensure that UK research and innovation continues to be world leading.”

Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said:

“From Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the World Wide Web, to Rosalind Franklin whose work was critical in understanding DNA, we have a rich history of talented individuals who have paved the way for ground-breaking research and discoveries in their fields.

“Our investment in these Future Leaders Fellows will enable the brightest and best of our scientists and researchers to work with leading lights in industry, to help their research move from the laboratory to the commercial market.

“This support to the next generation of scientists and researchers is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy, and our commitment to raise R&D spend to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 will maintain the UK’s position as a world-leader in science and innovation and building on our historic legacy.”

The Fellows will tackle a broad spectrum of challenges and global issues and are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary and business-linked activities, for example:

  • Dr Hien Ngo from Queen’s University Belfast aims to revolutionise mobile networks to provide the capacity required to meet the ever-growing demand for connected devices and data.
  • Dr Anahid Basiri from Imperial College London will work with companies to develop accurate 3D maps of cities using crowdsourced data on blockage of GPS signals for use by businesses and emergency services. 

Four or seven years of funding is provided and this stability, combined with commitments from host institutions for ongoing support after the Fellowship, gives researchers the time they need to make progress on truly challenging questions.  

The Future Leaders Fellowships are open to early career researchers in any field of research and innovation across UKRI’s remit. They can come from anywhere in the world to work at a UK institution or business.   

Researchers are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary and business-linked research. To foster the movement of people and ideas between the academic and business sectors and support excellence wherever it arises, the
Fellowships encourage applicants who work with, or be based in, businesses.  

UKRI will provide about £900 million in support over six competition rounds over three years, typically awarding around 200 new fellows each year. Find out about all 41 Fellows here.

Examples of Fellows

Dr Sarah Lewthwaite, a Research Fellow at the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods at the University of Southampton, has been awarded a Fellowship for her project, Teaching accessibility in the digital skill set. The project will embark on an ambitious programme of research to establish a new body of knowledge that will enhance the teaching competencies of digital accessibility educators and professionals and broaden engagement with evidence-based pedagogy among accessibility professionals to create new learning and teaching networks. It will also establish accessibility education as a research field.

Dr Helen Frances Dodd, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Reading and a previous ESRC grant holder, has been awarded a Fellowship for her project, Adventurous play in schools as a mechanism for reducing risk for childhood anxiety.

The research project will explore whether we may be able to decrease the likelihood of children experiences problematic anxiety by increasing their adventurous play in school.  This research is important because it may help us to design ways of increasing adventurous play and decreasing the chances of children having long-term problems with anxiety. The research has the potential to dramatically affect the way that schools approach children's play and to significantly decrease anxiety problems as a consequence. This would improve the quality of life of the children across the UK and decrease the substantial societal costs associated with long-term mental health problems.

Read UKRI’s story for more examples.


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