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:

Need help finding us?

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.

  • 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.

    • 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

      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.

      Overseas research

      If you or any research staff employed on your grant will be doing research away from your home laboratory, you can ask for:

      • return travel costs
      • subsistence costs if you’ll be away from your host organisation for less than 12 months (see below for more information)
      • overseas allowances if you’ll be away from your host organisation for 12 months or more.

      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.

      Subsistence costs

      If you're working overseas or away from your host organisation for up to one month you can ask for subsistence costs.

      These include a daily allowance for living expenses.

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

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

      You can ask for:

      • outward and return airfares

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

      • freight allowance

        We will pay up to 80kg of additional airline baggage or unaccompanied airline freight for your outward and return journey.

      • health insurance (if you will be based outside the UK or Republic of Ireland)

        Your health insurance should be comprehensive and include emergency evacuation cover (if necessary) for you, your partner and dependent children.

      • visa/vaccination costs and any anti-malarial treatment for you, your partner and dependent children

      If you're away for more than one month but less than 12 months, you can also ask for:

      • reasonable actual rental costs (instead of subsistence)

      • housing security costs

        You can ask for these if you'll be based in a low- or middle-income country and they are necessary. Costs include guards, panic buttons and alarms. You should ask your employer for advice on the level of costs.

      If you're away for more than one month, receive a salary from an organisation in a low- or middle-income country and will be based in a high-income country, you can also ask for:

      • up to £20 a day to cover any extra costs, eg transport.

    • overseas allowances

      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:

      1. You are employed in the UK and will be working in a low- or middle-income country, including one of our Major Overseas Programmes (MOPs)

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

      • outward and return airfares

        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

      • a contribution towards housing costs

        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 MOPs you can ask for a higher contribution. You should ask the MOP administrators for advice on the level of costs you can ask for.

      • housing security costs

      • education allowance

        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.
      • annual leave airfares

        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.

      2. You are employed in the UK and will be working in a high-income country

      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.

      • outward and return airfares

        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

      • a contribution towards housing costs

        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
      • education allowance

        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.
      • annual leave airfares

        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.

      3. You are not employed in the UK, but will be working in the UK

      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.

      • outward and return airfares

        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

      • a contribution towards housing costs

        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
      • annual leave airfares

        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.

      4. You are not employed in the UK and will be working in another overseas country

      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.

      • outward and return airfares

        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

      • a contribution towards housing costs

        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

      • education allowance

        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.
      • annual leave airfares

        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.

    • 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 25KB] 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.

After completing a year of this fellowship, you can apply for enhancement funds. These funds allow you to explore new opportunities or paths of discovery, or support unanticipated costs.

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 a sample full application form for Principal Research Fellowships [PDF 2.2MB].

  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 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