UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Scheme

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Proposals are invited for the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (FLF). This multidisciplinary fellowship scheme aims to develop, retain, attract and sustain research and innovation talent in the UK, by providing up to seven years of funding, for at least 550 early-career researchers and innovators, across all areas of the Research Councils’ and Innovate UK’s remit.

Fellowships can be held at any UK-based organisation currently registered as eligible to apply to the Research Councils (e.g. Higher Education Institutes, Research Council Institutes and eligible Independent Research Organisations), or Innovate UK.  Companies or other privately owned research organisations are encouraged to host UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships if they can provide an Innovation and/or research environment of international standing.

There will be six calls for the FLFs, with two calls taking place each year over the next three years.  Applications can be submitted in any area of research or innovation covered by the Research Councils and Innovate UK.

Visit the UKRI call page for round three of Future Leaders Fellowships scheme.

Is it for me?

We strongly encourage early career researchers in the arts and humanities to make the most of this opportunity, which is unprecedented in its size and scale.

Professor Roey Sweet
Professor Roey Sweet, AHRC Director of Partnerships and Engagement

Professor Roey Sweet, The AHRC’s Director of Partnerships and Engagement, said “The Future Leaders Fellowship scheme represents a transformational opportunity for early career researchers in the arts and humanities.

“The significance and the length of these prestigious awards are unprecedented in arts and humanities funding and they will give the opportunity for the brightest and best to realise their boundless potential.

“With the call open to researchers from all disciplines, we anticipate there will be stiff competition, but those who are successful will be able to cement their careers. Strong representation from our community will further reinforce the UK’s position as a world leader in arts and humanities research.”

More information is available on the UK Research and Innovation website.

Which Fellowship?

Many of those who are eligible for the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships will also be eligible for AHRC’s Leadership Fellows scheme, and vice versa.  To help you to consider which Fellowship scheme might be the best fit for your project, we have outlined the differences between the two schemes.

   AHRC Leadership Fellows (ECR route) UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship
  • support for researchers to develop their capabilities as research leaders;
  • to carry out excellent individual research which was the potential to generate a transformative impact on their discipline, and which is of exceptional intellectual scope and importance;
  • develop and undertake innovative and collaborative leadership activities which are connected to their research and which will result in benefits for their own discipline(s) and beyond;
  • to develop the leadership experience and capabilities of early career researchers in a crucial phase of their careers as they establish themselves and develop beyond doctoral and immediate post-doctoral work;
  • enable the production of high quality innovative research that moves significantly beyond doctoral projects.
  • develop, retain, attract and sustain research and innovation talent in the UK
    foster new research and innovation career paths including those at the academic/business and interdisciplinary boundaries, and facilitate movement of people between sectors;
  • provide sustained funding and resources for the best early career researchers and innovators;
  • provide long-term, flexible funding to tackle different and novel challenges, and support adventurous, ambitious programmes.
Organisational eligibility UK HEIs and recognised IROs UK HEIs, UK-registered businesses, recognised IROs, and RC institutes and laboratories;
collaborating hosts can include charities, government departments, community groups, non-UK HEIs, companies and research organisations
Individual eligibility
  • doctorate or equivalent research experience/training
  • academic researcher with a contract at a UK HEI of at least 12 months prior to application, and lasting for the duration of the proposed award period
  • < 8 years post-PhD, or < 6 years from first academic appointment, excluding any career breaks
  • doctorate or equivalent research experience/training;
    academic researchers and innovators, who have not already held substantial ECR funding grants;
  • fit of project/programme to scheme, and fit of individual to undertake the project, and demonstrate how it will contribute to their leadership within their subject area and research more broadly (refer to Person Specification)
Subject area eligibility AHRC remit anything fundable by RCs and Innovate UK
Host organisation commitment
  • contract to end of proposed award period
  • support for research and the Fellow’s development
  • applied for based on 80% FEC
  • tapered salary commitment from year 3;
  • open-ended position during or at end of Fellowship;
  • applied for based on 80% FEC;
  • supportive research/innovation environment for the Fellow (for example, office/lab space, relevant training, mentoring and support, access to specialist facilities)
Length of award 1-2 years 4 + 3 years (with progress review)
Nature of contract
  • Can be balanced with existing academic/research duties
  • up to 12 months may be taken at 100% FTE (no other professional activities allowed except PhD supervision)
  • average duration over award period must be no less than 50% FTE
  • Existing academic/research duties must be relinquished for duration of the Fellowship;
  • 100% of Fellow's working time must be dedicated to the fellowship to focus on research;
  • Fellows in receipt of full-time awards would not be expected to spend more than 6 hrs/week (pro-rated for p/t) on other ongoing research commitments
Amount of award £50k - £250k no maximum, but awards over £1.2m (at 80% FEC) should be discussed in advance with UKRI staff
Assessment criteria
  • Quality and importance of research
  • People
  • Proposed leadership activities
  • Project management
  • Data management
  • Value for money
  • Output, dissemination and impact
  • Research/Innovation excellence
  • Applicant and their development
  • Impact and strategic relevance
  • Research environment and costs
Assessment format Office sift, peer review, PI response, panel moderation Office sift, peer review, PI response, panel moderation, panel interview

More information

Further details about the scheme, eligibility criteria, and how to apply may be found on the Future Leaders Fellowships call page at:

Opening Dates

Call Opened: 02/04/2019

Closing Dates

Closing Date: 30/05/2019

Visit the UKRI Future Leadership Fellows call page at:

How to make an application

Further details to will be available on the UKRI website.


Further Information

Wider impact of Fellowships

Besides providing an individual researcher with the time and resources to conduct research and engagement activities, Fellowships have the potential to generate substantial added value for the researcher’s career development, and the wider research community. The following stories are from researchers in the arts and humanities who have been funded by AHRC on Fellowships or other large grants that have enabled their development and brought substantial benefits to other researchers.

Case study 1 - Catherine Clarke, University of Southampton

AHRC support was pivotal to the development of my research career – and has helped me give back to my institution and wider research community through the skills and experience I’ve gained. As an early-career researcher working in medieval literary studies, I participated in two AHRC-funded research networks: ‘Perceptions of Medieval Landscapes and Settlements’ and ‘Crossing Conquests: Literary Culture in Eleventh Century England’. Both of these were inter-disciplinary and helped me to connect with scholars working in different fields, or tackling similar research questions from very different perspectives. These contacts and collaborations laid the foundation for my first major AHRC-funded research project, ‘Mapping Medieval Chester’, which I led under the ‘Early Career’ route. This then developed into a project focused on knowledge exchange and engagement, ‘Discover Medieval Chester’. Since then, I’ve led further AHRC-funded projects: ‘City Witness: Place and Perspective in Medieval Swansea’ and, most recently, development of the St Thomas Way, a new heritage route designed to share our research in innovative ways.

These AHRC-funded projects enabled me to develop skills I’d never have foreseen, but which are now fundamental to my identity as a researcher: from digital methods, to collaborations with creative practitioners, to partnerships with agencies beyond academia, such as museums and local government. AHRC support gave me the opportunity to connect my research, as a medievalist, with social, cultural and economic challenges in the real world: from urban regeneration objectives in Swansea, to the politics of heritage management in Chester, to the challenges of ‘place-making’ and tourism in the England-Wales borders. As well as making a genuine impact on communities and places, these projects have also shaped my increasing research interests in heritage, affective engagements with the past, and alternative modes of scholarship. And AHRC support brings a really positive ripple effect. My work on medieval Chester, supported by the AHRC Early Career route, led to a 4* Impact Case Study for my institution (Swansea University) in REF 2014. I now advise a number of universities on impact and research, and share my experience and outlook in leadership roles such as Academic Director of CARMEN: The Worldwide Medieval Network. It’s also brilliant that, through AHRC projects, I’ve had the chance to create some exciting post-doctoral roles for the next generation of scholars.

Case study 2 - Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow

Being Principal Investigator on the AHRC Large Grant: Researching Multilingually at the Borders of the Body, Language, Law and the State brought career development to every member of the team. All ECRs moved on from their projects and contracts into new, permanent or semi-permanent research careers or academic-related work within 3 months of the end of their contracts, but mostly up to a year before the ends of their contracts. Each Co-I gained tenure, or promotion as a direct result of their being named on the grant. 

The coincidence of the leadership of the large grant with the renewed attention on refugee humanitarian protection, moving from a niche research issue to the mainstream focus for arts, humanities and social sciences as well as across medical, engineering and informational sciences meant that both the PI position and the work itself gained rapid attention, and this meant stepping into public and media work which also led significantly to career development.

A core element, and requirement from the peer review process in my own research development was the encouragement to return to the central practice-led and anthropological elements of my own work as a poet as well as a researcher; to combine these more fully and to focus on the production of poetry as well as traditional academic outputs. This has led to fusion and a renewed creativity and distinctiveness in my forms of expression, a reinterpretation of genres and in particular a focus on the sharing of the performance and lecture spaces I am afforded with those from the global south who are largely excluded from such spaces. The award of the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts came from a confident insistence on the ethical, multilingual and artistic dimensions to the research programme I was to lead, and has augmented the PI role and leadership dimensions to my own research career as a result, and in ways, which, most importantly, are congruent with my own values and principles of leadership and research.


Associated image copyright: Gael Varoquaux on Flickr by CC.20.

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