Principal Research Fellowships

Principal Research Fellowships are the most prestigious of our personal awards and provide long-term funding for researchers of international standing.

Scheme at a glance

Career stage:

Senior

Where your host organisation is based:

UK, Republic of Ireland

Type of researcher:

Basic, Clinical, Public health

Level of funding:

Salary and research expenses covered

Duration of funding:

5 or 7 years (you can apply for renewal after this time)

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:

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Getting here

Key dates

You can express an interest at any time.

People we've funded

Lalita Ramakrishnan

The funding is well-suited to international relocations. There was a generous relocation allowance, for lab members as well as me.

Lalita Ramakrishnan

Cathy Price

The flexibility of the funding is crucial. It recognises that the direction your research takes is often contingent on the results – you can’t specify in advance five years’ worth of experiments.

Cathy Price

More case studiesList of grantholders

Eligibility and suitability

Who can apply

You can apply for a Principal Research Fellowship if you're a researcher of international standing with an established track record in research at the highest level. You must have:

Who can't apply

You can't usually apply if you:

  • hold an established post in the UK or Republic of Ireland – we're willing to consider a preliminary application if you have a strong justification for moving to a different organisation
  • are currently applying for another Wellcome Trust fellowship.

If you've already been unsuccessful with a full application for this scheme, please contact us before you apply again.

What we're looking for

This award is particularly suitable for senior research scientists who:

  • want to work in the UK or Republic of Ireland but are currently based in a different country

or

  • currently hold Senior Research Fellowships in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

When we look at your application, we'll assess:

  • your track record and standing in the field
  • the quality and importance of your research question(s)
  • your approach to solving these problems
  • the suitability of your research environment.

What's expected of your host organisation

Your sponsor must guarantee that the host organisation will provide:

  • sponsorship to renew your Principal Research Fellowship every five years, and 50 per cent of your employment costs during a renewal period
  • an established post when the award ends.

Other schemes

Investigator Awards in Science

Offering flexible funding support to researchers at all career stages working on important questions of relevance to our scientific remit.
Full details of Investigator Awards in Science

Senior Research Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Science

Providing support for independent researchers at academic organisations in the UK and Republic of Ireland who'll become leaders in their scientific field.
Full details of Senior Research Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Science

Senior Research Fellowships in Clinical Science

Giving clinical academics the opportunity to develop their research potential and to establish themselves as leading investigators.
Full details of Senior Research Fellowships in Clinical Science
Scheme finder

What we offer

A Principal Research Fellowship is for seven years (or five if you hold a UK-based senior research fellowship).

The fellowship can be held on a part-time basis, and you can apply for renewal. The award includes:

  • a basic salary (determined by your host organisation)

    We will fund the total cost of your salary for the entire period of the grant.

    You should ask your host organisation to calculate this. It should reflect the skills, responsibilities and expertise needed to carry out the role, and include:

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

    You should exclude any Wellcome Trust fellowship supplement that was part of a previous grant.

    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 1.6% if this hasn’t been confirmed.

    From Year 2 onwards, we will automatically increase your salary, based on our current inflation allowance rates.

    Your salary should normally be in the range of £75,000 to £100,000 a year. Your organisation will need to justify your salary if it’s higher than this.

    Find out more about employing staff.

    Visa and work permit costs

    If Wellcome is going to pay your salary on the grant, you can ask for visa costs to help you take up the post at your host organisation. You can also ask for:

    • Visa costs for your partner and dependent children.
    • Essential associated costs, such as travel to attend appointments at a visa application centre or embassy. You’ll need to justify this.
  • a Distinction Award for your personal support

    We will provide:

    • a Distinction Award of up to £50,000 based on your experience
    • the extra employer's contributions needed to cover the supplement. 

    We won’t normally provide a supplement if you are employed on a clinical academic scale.

  • personal removal expenses

    If you have to move to take up the post at your host organisation, you can ask for £1,000. You'll need to justify this.

  • research expenses, directly related to your proposal
    • staff

      You can ask for funding for research staff on your grant. There is no set limit to the number of staff, but usually it should be no more than 5 or 6. If you’re doing fieldwork or clinical studies in a low- or middle-income country, we’ll consider requests for more research staff.

      How to cost salaries for research staff

      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
      • 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 1.6% 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.
      • Essential associated costs, such as travel to attend appointments at a visa application centre or embassy. You’ll need to justify this. 
    • materials and consumables

      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.
    • animals

      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, but only 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

      Equipment purchase

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

      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.

      If an item of equipment costs £100,000 or more, we normally expect a contribution from the host organisation or another source. As a guide, this would be at least:

      • 10% on an item that costs £100,000 or more
      • 20% on an item that costs £500,000 or more.

      In some cases we may expect a larger contribution. We’ll discuss this with you after we’ve assessed your application.

      Contributions can include benefits in kind, such as refurbishment or the underwriting of a key support post.

      Equipment maintenance

      We will cover maintenance costs for equipment if:

      • you are requesting it in your application
      • it is equipment we have already funded and the original award used to purchase the equipment has ended
      • it is equipment we have already funded, it is over five years old, and it’s cost effective to keep maintaining it
      • it is equipment funded by another source and you are applying from an organisation in a low- or middle-income country.

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

    • access charges

      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.
    • travel and subsistence

      Travel costs

      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.

      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:

      • Fellow – £2,000 a year
      • Research 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

      We provide travel and subsistence costs for you and any research staff employed on your grant for UK and overseas visits to collaborators, and for collaborators to visit your laboratory. 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.

    • overseas allowances

      If you or any staff employed on your grant will be spending time in another country, we’ll help you with the additional costs of working on the project overseas.

      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.
      Partners and dependants travelling with you

      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).

       

      Low- and middle-income countries are defined by the World Bank as:

      • low-income
      • lower-middle-income
      • upper-middle-income.

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

      • outward and return travel

        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.
      • baggage and freight shipping allowance

        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.
      • medical and travel insurance

        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.

      • visas and vaccinations

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

      • housing security

        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.

      • accommodation and subsistence

        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.

      • education

        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.

      • annual leave travel costs

        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.
      • language lessons

        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.

    • fieldwork expenses

      We cover fieldwork costs if they’re essential and you can justify them. Costs can include:

      • survey and data collection, including communication and data collection services and any associated costs such as essential field materials, travel costs and language translation services
      • the purchase, hire and running costs of vehicles dedicated to your project
      • expenses for subjects and volunteers, including the recruitment of participants, their participatory fees and travel costs
      • statistical analysis.

      You can ask for other fieldwork costs that aren’t listed here, but you’ll need to justify them.

    • inflation allowance

      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         Inflation allowance
        (in months)                  
             0-12                           0.0%
           13-24                           0.8%
           25-36                           1.6%  
           37-48                           2.4%
           49-60                           3.3%
           61-72                           4.1%
           73-84                           4.9%   

      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.

    • publication costs

      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

      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.

      We don’t cover open access article processing charges.

    • clinical research costs

      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, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

      Further information on funding for clinical trials.

    • other costs

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

      • 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 delivering data management and sharing plans
      • 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.

      Costs guidance [PDF 26KB] on the types of costs that can/cannot be charged on biomedical science research grants.

You can also apply for:

If you’re awarded this fellowship

If you're from outside the European Economic Area, you can apply for entry to the UK via the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise visa route. Email tierone@wellcome.ac.uk to find out how we can help to streamline the application process.

What we don’t offer

We don't fund on a proportion of full economic costs in UK universities.

How to apply

Stages of application

  1. Contact us with your full CV and a brief outline of your plans

    You can express an interest in this award at any time. Please send your full CV to a head of department in one of our Science teams, preferably 12 months before the date you want the award to start.

    If you're based at a host organisation in the Republic of Ireland, you must get a letter of endorsement from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and/or the Health Research Board (HRB) before submitting your preliminary application. Please make sure you contact SFI and/or the HRB at least eight weeks before you submit your preliminary application.

  2. Submit your preliminary application

    We'll assess your eligibility and give advice about your competitiveness and the resources you've requested. We will give you a decision within three weeks of the preliminary application deadline. If suitable, we'll invite you to submit a full application.

  3. Submit your full application

    View the  Sample full application form for Principal Research Fellowships and Senior Research Fellowships [PDF 2.3MB].

  4. Scientific review and shortlisting

    An Expert Review Group will review your application. If successful, we will invite you for an interview. We’ll give you at least two weeks’ notice.

  5. External Peer Review

    We'll seek written comments from external expert reviewers, including members of our Peer Review College. Unattributed comments will be sent to you before your interview.

  6. Interview

    If you're invited for an interview, you’ll be asked to make a short presentation. This will be followed by questions from the Science Interview Panel. Interviews take place at the Wellcome Trust offices in London.

Dates

You can express an interest at any time.

Definitions

Senior

You’re an experienced researcher responsible for the strategic direction of your research programme(s) and team(s).

UK
Republic of Ireland
Basic

You're not a clinically qualified researcher.

Clinical

You're a clinically qualified researcher.

Public health