Pathfinder Awards

Pathfinder Awards fund pilot projects that address an unmet medical need or offer a new solution to a problem.

Scheme at a glance

This scheme is now closed

Lead applicant salary:

Lead applicant salary not offered

Level of funding:

£100,000, but can be up to £350,000 in exceptional circumstances

Who can apply

Pathfinder Awards fund:

  • discrete projects from applicants in the UK and Republic of Ireland
  • partnerships between academia and industry based anywhere in the world.

The concept you are testing must be at an early stage, with a strong and defined project focus.

At the end of a Pathfinder Award:

  • your innovation should be a credible asset that’s ready for further development

  • you should be ready to apply for more innovations funding or have a downstream partner to assist with product development.

  • All not-for-profit research organisations are eligible. These organisations must sign up to our grant conditions.

  • Commercial organisations can apply either as lead applicants or as collaborators.

  • We encourage partnership applications. Partnerships must include an academic or not-for-profit organisation (as lead) and a commercial partner.

    Even though the academic or not-for-profit organisation will be the lead, the commercial partner will usually be the partner that receives the funds. 

    If you’re in a partnership, you can apply from anywhere in the world. If you’re not in a partnership, you must be based in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

    Partnership projects could:

    • cover an aspect of product development related to any disease
    • involve an established company that’s developed a product and taken it to market before
    • help the lead organisation access specialist knowledge and/or technologies that could improve their product.

    After funding, a downstream development partner should be able to realise a public benefit. The development partner can be the company itself or a third party. Partnerships must show that they can support the research to this point.

Who can't apply

You are not eligible for a Pathfinder Award if your project involves:

  • target validation
  • ‘blue skies’ or curiosity-driven research
  • late-stage programmes, where commercial or venture funding could complete the pathway to market
  • late-stage programmes that could be considered under our other funding schemes
  • programmes that are already fully funded
  • a pipeline or undefined future scope of work
  • companies that aren’t yet established and/or without working capital.

What we're looking for

We encourage applications that focus on:

  • discrete experiments to show proof-of-concept data assay or development
  • a critical experiment to validate intellectual property (in strong cases)
  • product development that benefits people with orphan and neglected diseases.

Other schemes

Collaborative Awards in Science

Funding teams of researchers, consisting of independent research groups, to work together on the most important scientific problems that can only be solved through collaborative efforts.
Full details of Collaborative Awards in Science

Seed Awards in Science

Helping researchers develop novel ideas that will go on to form part of larger grant applications to Wellcome or elsewhere.
Full details of Seed Awards in Science
Scheme finder

Pathfinder Awards can last up to 18 months. The award amount is usually about £100,000 but can be up to £350,000 in exceptional circumstances.

For partnership applications, the Wellcome Trust will contribute up to £100,000. You must show evidence of matched funding from your company partner, in cash or in kind. The commercial partner will usually be the partner that receives the funds. 

Pathfinder Award costs can include:

    • 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.

        From Year 2 onwards, you should use your organisation’s current pay rates. We’ll provide a separate inflation allowance for salary inflation costs.

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

        We may make a contribution towards the salary of departmental technicians funded by Research England 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, work permit and settled status costs

      If you have named researchers on your grant whose salaries will be funded by Wellcome, you can ask for visa or work permit 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
      • essential associated costs, such as travel to attend appointments at a visa application centre or embassy if you can justify these
      • Immigration Health Surcharge costs for the researcher, their partner and dependent children if they will be in the UK for six months or more.

      You can also ask for settled status costs if the named researchers:

      • are European Union citizens living in the UK
      • meet the requirements for settled status set by the UK government.

      You can also include these costs for the researcher’s partner and dependants.

    • 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.

    • Equipment purchase

      You can ask for smaller items of equipment that are essential to your proposed research project. Costs may include purchase, delivery, installation, maintenance and training, where necessary.

      If you want to request larger items, please contact us before applying.

      We will cover VAT and import duties if:

      • the usual UK exemptions on equipment used for medical research don’t apply
      • you’re applying from a non-UK organisation, and you can show these costs can’t be recovered.

      Equipment maintenance

      We will cover maintenance costs for equipment if:

      • you are requesting it in your application
      • it is existing equipment that is:
        • funded by us or another source
        • essential to the proposed research project
        • more than five years old
        • cost effective to keep maintaining it.

      We won’t cover maintenance costs for equipment if there is a mechanism in place to recoup these costs through access charges.

      Computer equipment

      We will cover the cost of one personal computer or laptop per person up to £1,500.

      We won't pay for:

      • more expensive items, unless you can justify them
      • installation or training 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 Wellcome 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 and your grant will be directly awarded to that organisation,

      or

      • part of your grant will be sub-contracted to an organisation in a low- or middle-income country.

      We don't cover these costs if your host organisation will include the sub-contracted funding in its annual report to the UK Charity Research Support Fund.

      They can 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.

      The total research management and support costs should not be more than 20% of the direct research costs you're requesting.

      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 for your research
      • include a letter from the finance director of your host organisation with your application, confirming that the breakdown is 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. Please contact us if you need help calculating the costs.

        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.

      • If you or any staff will be spending 12 months or more in another country, we’ll help you with the costs of working on the project overseas.

        Our overseas allowances are based 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.

        We have 4 categories of allowances for this scheme:

        • You need to provide the following costs, as accurately as possible.

            • We will pay the airfares at the beginning and end of your time abroad, for you, your partner and dependent children. All flights should be economy class.  

            • freight allowance up to £8,000 (£4,000 each way)
            • BUPA Worldwide Medical Insurance with the Option of Worldwide Medical Plus, including emergency evacuation cover for you and your family
            • visa/vaccination costs and anti-malarial treatment for you, your partner and dependent children
            • Up to:

              • £3,000 a year if you are single
              • £4,000 a year if your partner is travelling with you
              • £5,000 a year if your children are travelling with you

              If you will be working at one of the Africa and Asia Programmes you can ask for a higher contribution. You should ask the programme administrators for advice on the level of costs you can ask for.

            • housing security costs
            • We will give you an education allowance if you will:

              • have dependent children travelling with you 
              • be working in a location where there isn’t a free education in English of the same standard as the UK.

              The allowance covers:

              • 90% of nursery school fees for 3 to 4 year olds up to a maximum of 15 hours a week
              • 90% of local junior school fees
              • 90% of local secondary school fees
              • 90% of UK boarding school fees if both parents and/or guardians will be living outside the UK                   
              • economy class return airfares for any children at a UK boarding school, at the beginning and end of each school term.

              The allowance doesn’t cover:

              • education costs for your children over the age of 18, once they have finished secondary school, eg university fees.
            • If you are spending two or more years in another country, we’ll pay a contribution towards annual leave airfares for you, your partner and dependent children to return to the UK.

              The number of return flights we’ll pay for depends on how long you’ll be spending overseas:

              • 24-35 months: 1 annual leave flight
              • 36-47 months: 2 annual leave flights
              • 48-59 months: 3 annual leave flights

              Flights should be economy class.

        • You need to provide the costs for outward and return airfares, health insurance and education allowance if you need them. These should be as accurate as possible. We will work out the other costs.

            • Your funds can cover the airfares at the beginning and end of your time abroad, for you, your partner and dependent children. All flights should be economy class.  

            • freight allowance up to £8,000 (£4,000 each way)

              BUPA Worldwide Medical Insurance with the Option of Worldwide Medical Plus for you and your family

              a contribution of £200 towards visa/vaccination costs for you, your partner and dependent children

            • Up to:

              • £3,000 a year if you are single
              • £4,000 a year if your partner is travelling with you
              • £5,000 a year if your children are travelling with you
            • You can use the funds to cover an education allowance if you will:

              • have dependent children travelling with you 
              • be working in a location where there isn’t a free education in English of the same standard as the UK.

              The allowance can cover:

              • 90% of nursery school fees for 3 to 4 year olds up to a maximum of 15 hours a week
              • 90% of local junior school fees
              • 90% of local secondary school fees
              • 90% of UK boarding school fees if both parents and/or guardians will be living outside the UK                   
              • economy class return airfares for any children at a UK boarding school, at the beginning and end of each school term.

              The allowance can't cover education costs:

              • if you'll be working in an English-speaking high-income country as you will usually have access to suitable public/state schools for your children
              • education costs for your children over the age of 18, once they have finished secondary school, eg university fees.
            • If you are spending two or more years in another country, you can use some of your funds towards annual leave airfares for you, your partner and dependent children to return to the UK.

              The rates are:

              • £500 a year if you are single
              • £1,000 a year if your partner is travelling with you
              • £1,300 a year if your children are travelling with you

              The number of return flights it can cover depends on how long you’ll be spending overseas:

              • 24-35 months: 1 annual leave flight
              • 36-47 months: 2 annual leave flights
              • 48-59 months: 3 annual leave flights

              Flights should be economy class.

        • You need to provide the costs for outward and return airfares, if you need them, as accurately as possible. We will work out the other costs.

            • We will pay the airfares at the beginning and end of your time in the UK, for you, your partner and dependent children. All flights should be economy class.  

            • freight allowance of £1,000

              a contribution of £200 towards visa/vaccination costs for you, your partner and dependent children

            • Up to:

              • £3,000 a year if you are single
              • £4,000 a year if your partner is travelling with you
              • £5,000 a year if your children are travelling with you
            • If you are spending two or more years in the UK, we’ll pay a contribution towards annual leave airfares for you, your partner and dependent children to return to your place of primary residence.

              The rates are:

              • £500 a year if you are single
              • £1,000 a year if your partner is travelling with you
              • £1,300 a year if your children are travelling with you

              The number of return flights we’ll pay for depends on how long you’ll be spending overseas:

              • 24-35 months: 1 annual leave flight
              • 36-47 months: 2 annual leave flights
              • 48-59 months: 3 annual leave flights

              Flights should be economy class.

        • You need to provide the costs for outward and return airfares, health insurance and, if you need them, anti-malarial treatment, housing security and education allowance. These should be as accurate as possible. We will work out the other costs.

            • We will pay the airfares at the beginning and end of your time abroad, for you, your partner and dependent children. All flights should be economy class.  

            • freight allowance of £1,000

              health insurance and anti-malarial treatment (if needed) for you, your partner and dependent children 

              a contribution of £200 towards visa/vaccination costs for you, your partner and dependent children

            • Up to:

              • £3,000 a year if you are single
              • £4,000 a year if your partner is travelling with you
              • £5,000 a year if your children are travelling with you
            • housing security costs if you will be working in a low- or middle-income country

            • We will give you an education allowance if you will:

              • have dependent children travelling with you 
              • be working in a location where there isn’t a free education of the same standard as your home country.

              The allowance covers:

              • 90% of nursery school fees for 3 to 4 year olds up to a maximum of 15 hours a week
              • 90% of local junior school fees
              • 90% of local secondary school fees
              • 90% of home country boarding school fees if both parents and/or guardians will be living abroad
              • economy class return airfares for any children at a boarding school, at the beginning and end of each school term.

              The allowance doesn’t cover education costs:

              • if you'll be working in an English speaking high-income country as you will usually have access to suitable public/state schools for your children
              • for your children over the age of 18, once they have finished secondary school, eg university fees.
            • If you are spending two or more years in another country, we’ll pay a contribution towards annual leave airfares for you, your partner and dependent children to return to your place of primary residence.

              The rates are:

              • £500 a year if you are single
              • £1,000 a year if your partner is travelling with you
              • £1,300 a year if your children are travelling with you

              The number of return flights we’ll pay for depends on how long you’ll be spending overseas:

              • 24-35 months: 1 annual leave flight
              • 36-47 months: 2 annual leave flights
              • 48-59 months: 3 annual leave flights

              Flights should be economy class.

    • 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.

    • 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 our clinical trials policy.

    • 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.

What we don’t offer

  • Academic organisational overheads.
  • Large standalone equipment.
  • Building or refurbishment expenditure.
  • Patent costs.
  • Working capital costs incurred by the commercial partner.
  • Salaries for tenured academics.

Stages of application

This scheme has no further application deadlines for 2016. 

Find out about the future of innovation at Wellcome.

  1. Contact us

    Individual applications

    You can submit a full application immediately or contact us for advice first. We’re happy to help while you prepare your proposal.

    Partnership applications

    Before submitting a full application, please email innovations@wellcome.ac.uk to confirm your eligibility.

    You must provide details of your project and the partnership (eg describe how both parties will support the research to the point where a development partner can realise a public benefit).

    Please also provide details of the commercial organisation’s funding status, including:

    • how long it has been established
    • how it’s financed – if the company’s in its early stages, we need to know the stage of fundraising it has reached
    • how it will be able to provide the required matching funding
    • evidence of working capital for the duration of the project.

    You must also, where applicable, provide a written statement that details:

    • any restrictions on IP
    • restrictions on publications relating to background IP
    • restrictions arising from the proposed research.
  2. Submit your full application

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

    View a sample full application form for Pathfinder Individual Awards [PDF 2.1MB] or Pathfinder Partnership Awards [PDF 2.1MB]

  3. Review

    Our Pathfinders Assessment Group considers all applications. Some applications will also be reviewed by independent external experts.

    We don’t usually provide specific written feedback to unsuccessful applicants. This is due to the scheme’s short turnaround time.

Disabled applicants

If you are disabled or have a chronic health condition, we can support you with the application process.

Dates

Applications are considered twice a year. We must receive your application by 17.00 (GMT/BST) on the deadline day. We cannot accept late applications.

  • Full application deadline

    20 June 2016

  • Funding decision

    September 2016

More information

For Pathfinder Awards of between £100,000 and £350,000, we may choose to award through a funding agreement. If we do, the partners must enter a collaboration agreement that covers:

  • ownership of Trust-funded IP
  • necessary licences for background IP
  • confidentiality
  • publication
  • protection, maintenance, exploitation and commercialisation of Trust-funded IP.

Lambert templates can be used as a guide.

Exceptions to our grant conditions

Pathfinder Awards are governed by:

  • the Trust’s Grant Conditions (except as set out below)
  • other Trust policies and positions
  • the terms of individual award letters.

We’ve waived Trust Grant Condition 8.2 for Pathfinder Awards of up to £100,000. For these awards:

  • you don’t need written permission to use Trust-funded IP for commercial purposes or third-party exploitation
  • you won’t have to share any benefits from commercialisation and/or exploitation with us.

Forms and guidance

Definitions

Lead applicant salary not offered

Contact us

About your eligibility, the application process, funding policies or general queries about grants

About the scope and content of your proposal only

About our online application system

Projects we've funded

Other schemes

Collaborative Awards in Science

Funding teams of researchers, consisting of independent research groups, to work together on the most important scientific problems that can only be solved through collaborative efforts.
Full details of Collaborative Awards in Science

Seed Awards in Science

Helping researchers develop novel ideas that will go on to form part of larger grant applications to Wellcome or elsewhere.
Full details of Seed Awards in Science
Scheme finder