Innovator Awards

These awards support researchers who are transforming great ideas into healthcare innovations that could have a significant impact on human health.

Scheme at a glance

Level of funding:

Up to £500,000

Duration of funding:

Usually up to 24 months

Focus areas:

Diagnostics, drug repurposing, mental health, neglected tropical diseases, neurological disorders and rare diseases. We may also consider applications from other areas.

Who can apply

Innovator Awards are open to researchers who are developing healthcare innovations that could have a major and measurable impact on human health. 

Individuals and teams from not-for-profit and commercial organisations can apply. Organisations can be of any size, based anywhere in the world. Funded organisations must sign up to our grant conditions (see the template award letters in the 'How to apply' section on this page).

You can work in any discipline on any type of technology. Examples of technologies include:

  • therapeutics (small molecules or biologics)
  • vaccines
  • devices
  • digital technology
  • regenerative medicine. 

The work that you propose must be essential for developing your healthcare innovation.

Focus areas

At the moment, we're particularly interested in healthcare innovations that address problems in:

  • diagnostics
  • drug repurposing
  • mental health
  • Arboviral infections
    Ascariasis (roundworm)
    Balantidiasis
    Bartonella
    Bovine tuberculosis in humans
    Buruli ulcer
    Chagas disease
    Chikungunya
    Cholera
    Cryptococcal meningitis
    Cysticercosis
    Dengue
    Dracunculiasis
    Echinococcosis
    Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAggEC)
    Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)
    Enterovirus 71
    Foodborne trematodiases
    Giardia
    Hepatitis C (genotypes 4, 5 and 6)
    Hookworm infection
    Human African trypanosomiasis
    Japanese encephalitis
    Jungle yellow fever
    Leishmaniasis
    Leprosy
    Leptospirosis
    Loiasis
    Lymphatic filariasis
    Melioidosis
    Mycetoma
    Neisseria meningitidis
    Onchocerciasis
    Paracoccidioidomycosis
    Rabies
    Rheumatic fever
    Rickettsial infections
    Rift Valley fever
    Rotavirus
    Roundworm (ascariasis)
    Salmonella infections
    Schistosomiasis
    Shigella
    Snake envenomation
    Strongyloidiasis
    Taeniasis/cysticercosis (tapeworm)
    Toxocariasis (and other larva migrans)
    Trachoma
    Treponematoses (Bejel, Pinta, Syphilis, Yaws)
    Trichurasis (whipworm)
    Viral haemorrhagic fevers
    Zika

    We may add more diseases to this list over time.

    If you propose to address a neglected tropical disease that is not listed here, please follow the process for applications that are outside our focus areas (see stage 2 of the ‘How to Apply’ section on this page).

  • neurological disorders
  • rare diseases.

If your proposal doesn’t address a problem in one of these areas, you must provide us with some information (see the ‘How to apply’ section on this page). We’ll consider this information and let you know if you can apply.  

Collaborators and partners

We want to encourage proposals from:

  • multidisciplinary collaborators from the same or different organisations
  • partnerships between not-for-profit and commercial organisations. 

We expect most commercial organisations that are partners with not-for-profit organisations to provide in-kind contributions in addition to our funding. 

If your proposal is successful and involves collaborators or partnerships, you must all enter into an agreement before we provide funding, stating:

  • who will own any IP that arises from this award
  • the necessary background IP licences
  • how you plan to protect, maintain and commercialise Wellcome-funded IP.

This agreement must be consistent with the template award letter for your organisation (see the 'How to apply' section on this page).

For guidance, read the university and business collaboration agreements: model heads of terms agreements on GOV.UK.

Your proposal

In your proposal, you should describe:

  • the global burden of the disease or condition that you want to address
  • the unmet healthcare need
  • the patient population that you want to reach and the impact that your healthcare innovation could have on their health
  • why your healthcare innovation will be significantly better than anything that’s already available or being developed
  • the evidence supporting your proof of concept
  • what you will do with our funding (eg key experiments and project deliverables) to move your project on to the next stage of development
  • your team's expertise and the resources available to you
  • your long-term aims beyond this award.

Past and current innovations award holders

If you’re one of our past or current innovations award holders, you can apply for an Innovator Award if you propose to develop a healthcare innovation that we haven't funded.

Who can't apply

You're not eligible for an Innovator Award if your company is not established and/or doesn't have working capital. 

We won't consider proposals for:

  • incremental improvements in healthcare
  • ‘blue skies’ or curiosity-driven research
  • back-up or me-too drugs
  • research about the distribution and uptake of healthcare innovations 
  • delivering health services
  • public health interventions
  • one-off costs that don’t include key experiments, such as manufacturing a drug substance.

We don't usually consider proposals for phase III or IV clinical trials for therapeutics or vaccines. If you propose this kind of trial and you don't need more than £500,000 to carry it out, please contact us. We’ll tell you if we want you to apply.

If you've previously been unsuccessful in getting Wellcome funding for your healthcare innovation, you must contact us before you apply again. You can't usually apply again unless your proposal has changed significantly. 

An Innovator Award can be up to £500,000 and usually lasts up to 24 months.

You should ask for a level and duration of funding that's justifiable for your proposed activities.

Our support includes:

    • We will cover the salary costs of all staff, full or part time, who will work on your project. Staff members typically include research assistants or technicians employed on your grant. If you’re doing fieldwork or clinical studies in a low- or middle-income country, we’ll consider requests for more research staff.

      We don’t usually provide a salary for the lead applicant for this scheme.

      We don't provide studentship stipends.

       

      • Staff salaries should be appropriate to skills, responsibilities and expertise. You should ask your host organisation to use their salary scales to calculate these costs, which should include:

        • basic salary
        • employer’s contributions, including any statutory obligations (eg National Insurance contributions if you’re based in the UK) and pension scheme costs
        • Apprentice Levy charges for UK-based salaries
        • any incremental progression up the salary scale
        • locally recognised allowances such as London allowance.

        You should allow for salary pay awards during Year 1. These should be based on pay awards already agreed: if you don’t know what the pay award is yet then use our inflation rate. For Year 1 include any known pay awards for this period or an assumed percentage equivalent to our current inflation rate of 2.0% if this hasn’t been confirmed.

        From Year 2 onwards, we’ll automatically increase the salaries, based on our current inflation allowance rates.

        Find out more about the different staff categories and employing staff.

        We may make a contribution towards the salary of departmental technicians funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and its equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You will need to provide a full audit record of their time on your project.

    • Visa and work permit costs

      If you have named researchers on your grant whose salaries will be funded by Wellcome, you can ask for visa costs to help them take up their posts at the host organisation. You can also ask for:

      • Visa costs for the researcher’s partner and dependent children.
      • Immigration Health Surcharge costs for the researcher, their partner and dependent children if they will be in the UK for six months or more.
      • Essential associated costs, such as travel to attend appointments at a visa application centre or embassy. You’ll need to justify these. 
  • We will pay for the materials and consumables you need to carry out your proposed research, including:

    • laboratory chemicals and materials (eg reagents, isotopes, peptides, enzymes, antibodies, gases, proteins, cell/tissue/bacterial culture, plasticware and glassware)
    • associated charges for shipping, delivery and freight.
  • You can ask for funds to buy animals if they are essential to your project. We will also fund the charge-out rates for animal house facilities if your organisation uses full economic costing methodology. These costs include:

    • running costs (including animal maintenance,  any experimental procedures, licences and relevant staff training)
    • appropriate estates costs
    • cage and equipment depreciation costs, but not building depreciation costs.

    We may not pay the full charge-out rate for an animal house facility if we've provided significant funding towards the infrastructure and/or core support of the facility.

    If your organisation doesn’t use full economic costing methodology to establish charge-out rates for animal house facilities, you can ask for funds to cover:

    • the cost of buying animals
    • running costs (including animal maintenance, any experimental procedures, licences and relevant staff training)
    • staff costs, eg contributions towards the salaries of animal house technicians.

    We won’t provide estates or depreciation costs.

  • You can ask for the cost of access to shared equipment or facilities if they’re essential to your research project. These may include materials and consumables, plus a proportion of:

    • maintenance and service contracts
    • staff time costs for dedicated technical staff employed to operate the equipment or facility.

    We don’t cover the costs of:

    • estates and utilities
    • depreciation or insurance
    • other staff eg contributions towards departmental technical, administrative and management staff time.

    If the facilities or equipment were paid for by a Trust grant, you can only ask for access charges if:

    • the grant has ended
    • any support for running costs and maintenance contracts has ended.
  • We cover research management and support costs if:

    • your host organisation is in a low- or middle-income country.
    • your grant will be directly awarded to that organisation.

    These costs may include:

    • training costs, eg transferable skills and personal development training for you and any other people employed on your grant
    • costs for short-term professional training for administrative, technical and support staff
    • administration, eg grant management, technical and administrative services
    • other costs which are necessary for your research, eg computing and internet access costs, access to electronic resources, facility and running costs such as utilities, furniture, waste disposal and incineration, and building maintenance.

    See a list of low- and middle-income countries.

    How to apply for these costs

    You must

    • give a full breakdown of costs in your grant application form (you can't ask for a percentage of the research costs)
    • explain why these costs are necessary to your research
    • include a letter from the finance director of your host organisation with your application, confirming that the costs are a true representation of the costs incurred.
    • You can ask for these costs if you are applying from a university, a not-for-profit organisation or a small company.

      You should use the most suitable and economical form of travel. Please include a breakdown for each part of your trip, eg air fares and number of journeys.

      Travel costs

      Conference attendance

      You can ask for a contribution towards the costs of attending scientific and academic meetings and conferences, including registration fees. The limits are:

      • Lead applicant – £2,000 a year
      • Applicants who are asking for a salary on the grant –  £2,000 a year
      • Staff employed on your grant – £1,000 each a year

      You’ll need to specify the amount you’re requesting for each person.

      Collaborative travel

      You can ask for travel and subsistence costs for collaborative visits for you and any staff employed on your grant. You’ll need to justify each visit and its duration.

      Other travel

      We will pay for other essential visits, eg to facilities, for sample collection and for fieldwork. You can include subsistence costs.

      Subsistence costs

      If you’re away for up to one month you can ask for subsistence costs. These include accommodation, meals and incidentals (eg refreshments or newspapers).

      If your administering organisation has a subsistence policy, use their rates.

      If your administering organisation doesn’t have a subsistence policy, please use the HMRC rates.

      If you’re away for more than one month and up to 12 months, we will pay reasonable rental costs only, including aparthotels. You should discuss appropriate rates with your administering and host organisations, or Wellcome, as appropriate. We expect you to choose the most economical options, booked in advance where possible.

      If you’re from a low- or middle- income country and will be working in a high-income country for more than one month and up to 12 months, you can also ask for up to £20 a day to cover extra costs, such as transport and incidentals.

      If you’re away for more than 12 months, we will pay the costs of your housing. You should discuss your needs with your administering and host organisations.

      The allowance we provide will be based on family and business need. We will set the maximum allowance we pay for each location. This will be based on current market data or, where data is unavailable, in consultation with your administering organisation, using equivalent market rates. If you need help calculating the costs please contact Grants Management.

      We will cover the direct expenses you have to pay to find and rent a home. We will not cover the cost of utilities or any refurbishment.

      Overseas research

      If you or any research staff employed on your grant will be doing research away from your home laboratory, we'll help with the additional costs of working on the project overseas. Please see the 'Overseas allowances' section for details.

    • We'll help you with the additional costs of working on the project overseas if you are:

      • applying from a university, a not-for-profit organisation or a small company
      • you or any staff employed on your grant will be spending time in another country.

      Our overseas allowances are:

      • a contribution towards the personal cost of carrying out research overseas, to ensure that you are not disadvantaged
      • provided on the assumption that you’ll be paying income tax, either in your home country, or the country you will be working in (your personal tax is your responsibility).
      • provided on the understanding that you or your partner will not receive equivalent allowances from elsewhere
      • determined by the amount of time you will spend away from your home country.
    • If you will be away more than 12 months, we will provide overseas allowances for your partner and any dependants if they are travelling with you.

      If you will be away for 12 months or less and can justify why your partner and dependants must travel with you, we may provide overseas allowances for them.

      We define your partner as the person:

      • you’re married to
      • you’re not married to but with whom you’ve been in a relationship for at least a year

      and

      • you live with at the same permanent address and share some form of joint financial commitment with (eg a mortgage).
    •  

      See a list of low- and middle-income countries, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

      You can ask for the following allowances. You need to provide estimated costs as accurately as possible.

        • We will pay your travel costs at the beginning and end of your overseas work. Costs can be for air, ferry, train or coach fares.

          All fares should be:

          • economy class
          • the most suitable and economical form of travel
          • booked in advance where possible.
        • If you are away for up to 12 months, you can ask for up to 80kg of additional baggage or unaccompanied airline freight for your outward and return journeys.

          If you are away for more than 12 months, you can ask for the costs of shipping your personal items at the beginning and end of your overseas work.

          We will pay the full cost of transporting:

          • half a standard shipping container if you’re travelling alone
          • a whole standard shipping container (20ft) if you’re travelling with a partner and/or dependants.
        • We will pay the cost of your medical insurance and travel insurance.

          If you will be working in a low- or middle-income country we will also cover the cost of emergency evacuation cover.

          We won’t pay for medical insurance if you will be based in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

        • We will pay the costs of visas, vaccinations and anti-malaria treatment.

        • You can ask for this if you’ll be based in a low- or middle-income country and it is necessary.

          Costs can include guards, panic buttons and alarms. You should ask your employing organisation for advice on the level of security you need.

        • If you’re away for up to one month you can ask for subsistence costs. These include accommodation, meals and incidentals (eg refreshments or newspapers).

          If your administering organisation has a subsistence policy, use their rates.

          If your administering organisation doesn’t have a subsistence policy, please use the HMRC rates.

          If you’re away for more than one month and up to 12 months, we will pay reasonable rental costs only, including aparthotels. You should discuss appropriate rates with your administering and host organisations, or Wellcome, as appropriate. We expect you to choose the most economical options, booked in advance where possible.

          If you’re from a low- or middle- income country and will be working in a high-income country for more than one month and up to 12 months, you can also ask for up to £20 a day to cover extra costs, such as transport and incidentals.

          If you’re away for more than 12 months, we will pay the costs of your housing. You should discuss your needs with your administering and host organisations.

          The allowance we provide will be based on family and business need. We will set the maximum allowance we pay for each location. This will be based on current market data or, where data is unavailable, in consultation with your administering organisation, using equivalent market rates. If you need help calculating the costs please contact Grants Management.

          We will cover the direct expenses you have to pay to find and rent a home. We will not cover the cost of utilities or any refurbishment.

        • If you’re away for more than 12 months we will pay:

          Local nursery or school fees

          You can ask for these costs if you are in a location where there isn’t free local education of the same standard as in your home country.

          Costs include:

          • local nursery school fees up to a maximum of 15 hours a week for 3 to 4 year olds
          • local junior or secondary school fees, up to the end of secondary school education.

          Local international school fees

          You can ask for these costs if local schools do not provide the same standard of education as in your home country. We will only pay the published termly school fees.

          We will not cover the costs of:

          • extracurricular activities, including field trips
          • other extras including, but not limited to, uniforms, sports kit and equipment, transport, meals, books and electronic equipment.

          Boarding school fees

          We will consider paying the cost of boarding school fees in your home country if:

          • a local international school is not available
          • both parents, guardians or the sole care giver live outside the home country.

          The allowance covers:

          • up to a maximum of £30,000 a year for each child for the published termly fees only
          • the cost of economy class return airfares at the start and end of each school term.

          We will not cover the costs of:

          • additional annual leave airfares
          • extracurricular activities, including field trips
          • other extras including, but not limited to, uniforms, sports kit and equipment, transport, meals, books and electronic equipment.

          We will cover the cost of providing special needs education as far as possible. Please contact us to discuss your needs.

          We would not usually expect to provide an education allowance if you will be working in a high-income country.

        • If you will be away for more than 12 months, we’ll pay for you to travel back to your home country for annual leave. This is in addition to your outward and return travel costs and depends on how long you will be away:

          • 12-24 months – 1 annual leave trip
          • 25-36 months – 2 annual leave trips
          • 37-48 months – 3 annual leave trips
          • 49-60 months – 4 annual leave trips
          • 61-72 months – 5 annual leave trips.

          All fares should be:

          • economy class
          • the most suitable and economical form of travel
          • booked in advance where possible.
        • If you will be away for more than 12 months, you can ask for up to 100 hours of lessons in the local language for you and/or your partner during the first 12 months of your visit.

          We will cover 100% of the costs for local language school classes or up to 50% of the costs of individual tuition.

          We will not cover the cost of examinations or personal learning materials such as DVDs and books.

  • We will provide funds if you need to outsource project work to:

    • contract research organisations
    • other fee-for-service providers.
  • If you are applying from a university we will add an inflation allowance to your award.

    How we calculate your inflation allowance

    Your inflation allowance is based on your total eligible costs and the duration of the award. If the costs in your application are in pounds sterling, euros or US dollars, you’ll receive the following allowance:

    Award duration (in months)Inflation allowance
    0-120.0%
    13-240.8%
    25-361.6%
    37-482.4%
    49-603.3%
    61-724.1%
    73-844.9%

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    These rates are calculated using compound inflation at 1.6% a year from Year 2 onwards.

    If your costs are in any other currency, we will use an inflation allowance that reflects the inflation rate of the country where the host organisation is based.

    What to include in your application

    The costs in your application must be based on current known costs, excluding inflation.

    You should allow for salary pay awards during Year 1. These should be based on pay awards already agreed; if you don’t know what the pay award is yet then use our inflation rate.

    The Trust’s studentship stipend scales for non-clinical/basic science PhD studentships include an annual increase for inflation.

  • You can ask for costs for page charges and/or costs for colour prints for your original research papers.

    You can also ask for the costs of publishing other material which is essential to the project, such as:

    • the proceedings of a workshop or conference we’ve funded
    • questionnaires, recruitment material, newsletters etc for clinical, epidemiological and qualitative research studies
    • the results of a clinical trial or epidemiological study
    • public engagement materials where dissemination (including printing and publishing) is a key activity of the project.

    Open access charges

    You can't ask for open access article processing charges in your application.

    If your organisation receives block funding through the UK’s Charity Open Access Fund you can ask it to cover these costs. If not, we’ll supplement your grant when your paper has been accepted for publication.

  • We will cover the costs for an experienced project manager. They will be responsible for managing and coordinating the day-to-day project activities and communications within your organisation and between collaborators and sub-contractors.

  • If you need to carry out clinical trials or research using NHS patients or facilities, we will cover some of the research costs.

    Annex A of the guidelines for attributing the costs of health and social care research and development (AcoRD) sets out the costs we cover, and which costs should be funded through the Department of Health in England, or its equivalent in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If you're based in the Republic of Ireland, we would expect you to adhere to the spirit of these principles.

    Further information on funding for clinical trials.

  • Costs you may ask for (you will have to justify these costs in your application):

    • fieldwork costs, including survey and data collection and statistical analysis
    • specialist publications that are relevant to the research and not available in institutional libraries
    • consultancy fees
    • expenses for subjects and volunteers – includes recruitment of participants, their participatory fees and travel, as well as interviewee expenses
    • reasonable research-associated costs related to the feedback of health-related findings but not any healthcare-associated costs
    • costs associated with developing an outputs management plan
    • recruitment, advertising and interviewee travel costs for staff to be employed on the grant
    • purchase, hire and running costs of project-dedicated vehicles.

    Costs we won’t pay:

    • estates costs – such as building and premises costs, basic services and utilities. This also includes phone, postage, photocopying and stationery, unless you can justify these within a clinical or epidemiological study.*
    • research, technical and administrative staff whose time is shared across several projects and isn’t supported by an audit record*
    • charge-out costs for major facilities* – departmental technical and administrative services, and use of existing equipment
    • cleaning, waste and other disposal costs*

    *We will fund these costs in the case of animal-related research.

    • indirect costs – this includes general administration costs such as personnel, finance, library, room hire and some departmental services
    • office furniture, such as chairs, desks, filing cabinets, etc.
    • clothing such as lab coats, shoes, gloves, protective clothing
    • non-research related activities, eg catering, room and venue hire for staff parties, team-building events and social activities
    • indemnity insurance (insurance cover against claims made by subjects or patients associated with a research programme)
    • ethics reviews, unless you are in a low- or middle-income country
    • radiation protection costs.

You can also apply for Research Enrichment funding to increase the impact of your work through activities in public engagement, open research, and diversity and inclusion.

What we don’t offer

  • Salary recovery costs for staff funded full-time by the employing organisation
  • Organisational overheads and indirect costs
  • Working capital costs of commercial organisations
  • Academic courses such as Master's degrees or PhDs, and other tuition fees
  • Costs for large equipment
  • Costs for capital build or refurbishment

We don't provide funds for directly allocated or indirect costs unless they're included on this page.

You must submit your application through the Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker (WTGT).

Start your application

Stages of application

  1. Before you apply

    If your proposal addresses a problem in one of our current focus areas – diagnostics, drug repurposing, mental health, neglected tropical diseases, neurological disorders or rare diseases – please go straight to stage 3 ('Read our application guidance') below. 

    If your proposal doesn't address a problem in one of these areas, please see stage 2 below.

  2. Proposals outside our focus areas

    If your proposal is outside our focus areas, you must send us a summary and answers to nine questions before you apply. The summary and answers should take up no more than three pages of A4 (Arial, font size 11, portrait orientation).

    Proposal summary: in 300 words or less, outline the unmet medical need that you want to address, including information about:

    • the global burden of the disease or condition
    • the healthcare innovation you're developing to address this need
    • the current stage of development.

     

    Questions: please answer the following questions individually.

    Q1. What patient population will benefit most from your healthcare innovation and what impact on health do you aim to achieve in the long term?

    Q2. What is the competitive landscape in your field? Explain why your healthcare innovation will be significantly better than anything that’s already available or being developed.

    Q3. What key activities do you propose and how much funding will you need?

    Q4. What will your key deliverables be?

    Q5. After you've completed this stage of the project, what are the next steps?

    Q6. Apart from funding, how else can Wellcome help you achieve your aims?

    Q7. Have you submitted this proposal to other funders? If so, who and when?

    Q8. Who are the other potential funders of this work, both now and in the future? If Wellcome is your preferred funder or partner, why?

    Q9. Do you have any other relevant information about your proposal?

    Email your summary and answers to innovations@wellcome.ac.uk. We'll consider this information and let you know if you can submit a full application through Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker.

  3. Read our application guidance

    We encourage you to read the following before you apply:

  4. Submit your full application

    You must submit your full application through the Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker.

  5. Review

    Your application will be assessed by Wellcome staff and the Innovator Awards Advisory Group. We'll also seek advice or written reviews from external experts when necessary.

  6. Decision

    We'll email you soon after we receive your application to let you know when you'll hear our decision. 

    There are no interviews. In general, we won't provide detailed feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

Terms and conditions

Successful organisations must sign up to the grant conditions outlined in the template award letters (see stage 3 – 'Read our application guidance').

We reserve the right to ask for an alternative contract.

We require a proportional share of any financial benefits arising from any commercial exploitation of a funded project, as outlined in the Innovator Awards template revenue sharing agreement (see stage 3 – 'Read our application guidance').

As a charitable trust, we fund companies where this furthers our aims. Awards to commercial entities are therefore subject to our Programme-related investments policy [PDF 37KB].

Dates

There are no deadlines for this scheme – you can apply online at any time.

Definitions

Key dates

There are no deadlines for this scheme – you can apply online at any time.

Contact us

Contact our information officers if you have a question about this scheme (eg eligibility or the application process).

If you have a question about the scope and content of your proposal, contact:

People we've funded