Leading a research programme

If you have a PhD (or equivalent) and significant postdoctoral research experience then you may be ready to lead, or already be leading, your own independent research programme. 

During this career stage

In this career stage, you’ll:

  • develop your research ideas and vision
  • train and develop less experienced researchers
  • build collaborations eg with other researchers, in industry or with policy makers
  • develop and maintain an international reputation for your research.

Qualifications, skills and experience you'll need

To be eligible for our funding at this level, you must have a PhD or equivalent, and significant postdoctoral research experience. 

You must have a compelling research vision that is original and has impact.

In the early stages of your independent research career, you should have made important contributions to your research area eg publications, patents, software development or an impact on policy.

To apply for more senior funding, you’ll already be leading your own independent research programme. In addition:

  • you should have led internationally recognised contributions to your research area eg publications, patents, software development or an impact on policy
  • you should have a track record of sustained research support from major funding bodies
  • you will have established an international reputation as a research leader in your field, eg through awards, invitations to present your work, membership of professional bodies, advisory or editorial boards
  • you will have experience of developing and mentoring less experienced researchers.

Researcher stories

Read about the career journeys of some of our researchers.

Liz Corbett

Liz's story: how she transformed HIV testing in Africa

As a world-renowned scientist, Liz had to navigate plenty of obstacles throughout her career – from getting support for early-stage research ideas to influencing international policy.

Stephen Graham

Stephen's story: to build a lab you have to build your team

For Stephen, setting up a lab meant dealing with some predictable challenges, like building a team, but also some unpredictable ones.

Patricia Kingori

Patricia's story: from research assistant to senior academic creating a better culture

Patricia wants younger researchers to have better support than she had around challenges like setbacks with research and balancing career and parenthood.

Our funding in biomedical science and population health research

Early stages of an independent career

  • Clinical Research Career Development Fellowships

    Enabling clinically active healthcare professionals to continue their research at postdoctoral level and develop scientific independence. 

  • 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.

  • Daniel Turnberg Travel Fellowships

    Offering short-term funding for biomedical researchers to travel between the UK and the Middle East to learn new techniques and develop academic collaborations.

  • Innovator Awards

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

  • International Intermediate Fellowships

    Offering nationals of low- and middle-income countries the opportunity to lead their own research programmes.

  • Investigator Awards in Science

    Enabling independent researchers with a compelling research vision to tackle the most important questions in science.

  • Research Career Development Fellowships

    Providing support for postdoctoral researchers at academic organisations in the Republic of Ireland who aim to become independent scientists leading their own group.

  • Research Career Re-entry Fellowships

    Offering postdoctoral research scientists the opportunity to re-establish their scientific careers after a continuous break from research of at least two years.

  • Sir Henry Dale Fellowships

    Providing support for postdoctoral researchers who aim to become independent scientists leading their own groups. The scheme is a partnership between the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust.

  • Springboard Awards

    Providing small grants to support basic biomedical scientists as they develop their independent research careers. The scheme is a collaboration between the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) and the Wellcome Trust.

Later stages of an independent career

  • 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.

  • Innovator Awards

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

  • Investigator Awards in Science

    Enabling independent researchers with a compelling research vision to tackle the most important questions in science.

  • Research Career Re-entry Fellowships

    Offering postdoctoral research scientists the opportunity to re-establish their scientific careers after a continuous break from research of at least two years.

  • Senior Research Fellowships

    Supporting independent researchers who want to tackle the most important questions in science and who are leaders in their field.

Our funding in humanities and social science

After you’ve led a research programme

Established independent researchers can apply for more funding at this level or consider careers related to research or outside of research.

Overview of our schemes that support careers in research

How we support research careers

Besides our funding schemes, we work in many ways to support careers in research.

Flexible careers

We understand that different people choose different career paths, so we want to provide flexible research career opportunities.

Tips for running your own research group

A career in research [PDF 914KB] has useful resources about everything from negotiating a start-up package to building an international reputation.

Other funding opportunities

View and compare biomedical research funding schemes offered by Wellcome and seven other UK funders on the Medical Research Council website.