Seed Awards in Humanities and Social Science

Seed Awards help researchers develop compelling and innovative ideas that will go on to form part of larger grant applications to Wellcome or elsewhere.

The current funding round is on the theme of artificial intelligence.

Scheme at a glance

Career stage:

Postdoctoral research, Leading a research programme, Returning to research

Level of funding:

Usually between £25,000 and £100,000

Duration of funding:

12 to 18 months

Who can apply

You can apply for a Seed Award if you're a researcher who wants to develop a compelling and innovative idea that will go on to form part of a larger grant application to Wellcome or elsewhere.

For the current funding round, we are only accepting applications that explore the ethical, social and political challenges of using artificial intelligence in healthcare and biomedical research.

You must: 

The award is open to applicants with or without established academic posts.

We particularly encourage researchers who are at the start of their independent careers to apply.

You can have collaborators, but you can't submit a joint application with another person.

Read about the people who’ve been awarded Seed Awards.

If you're not eligible to apply for a Seed Award, you may be interested in our Small Grants in Humanities and Social Science. These grants are usually up to £30,000. They fund programmes of activities that enable researchers to build professional networks, develop new research agendas and increase the impact of their work.

Research proposal

Seed Awards give researchers the opportunity to use innovative methodologies and carry out a broad range of activities, such as:

  • pilot and scoping studies
  • preliminary data gathering
  • proof-of-principle studies
  • planning sessions
  • collaborative network meetings. 

We will review:

  • how your idea addresses the challenges outlined in the artificial intelligence themed call
  • the potential for your proposed research to make a significant advance in your field
  • your track record as a researcher, relative to your career stage
  • the feasibility of your approach and its likely outcomes 
  • the suitability of your research environment.

Who can't apply

You can't apply if you are currently undertaking a Master's or a PhD.

Also, you can't apply for funding for:

  • an existing, rather than a new, research project
  • a standalone project, with no follow-on plans.

Other schemes

Small Grants in Humanities and Social Science

Funding programmes of activities that enable researchers to build professional networks, develop new research agendas and increase the impact of their work.
Full details of Small Grants in Humanities and Social Science
Scheme finder

Seeds Awards are usually between £25,000 and £100,000. Most Seed Awards are for 12 to 18 months.

We'll pay your salary if you don’t have an established academic post.

All costs must be fully justified. Support can include:

  • If you don’t hold an established academic post, we’ll pay your salary.

    If you do, you can ask for funds for research or teaching replacement to cover the cost of a temporary replacement lecturer. Costs:

    • can cover up to 40% of your contracted time
    • are usually for someone more junior than you
    • can be spread across the full period of your grant.
      • You can ask for salary costs of all staff, full or part time, who will work on your project and whose time can be supported by a full audit trail. Staff members typically include research assistants, public engagement officers or a consultant 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.


        • 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, which should include any statutory obligations (eg National Insurance contributions if they’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.

          Find out more about employing staff.

      • 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:

      • archival photocopying
      • printing associated with fieldwork and empirical research
      • materials directly related to hosting workshops and interviews.
    • 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,


      • 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.
      • 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.

        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 may also pay for:

        • essential visits to facilities, archives and libraries
        • sample collection and fieldwork.

        You can include subsistence costs. You’ll need to justify these 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.

    • 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.

    • 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
      • computing, including recurrent costs dedicated to the project (eg software licences)
      • formal transferable skills and personal development training, in addition to what we'd expect your organisation to provide.

      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, filin cabinets, etc.
      • clothing such as lab coats, shoes, gloves, protective clothing
      • non-research related activities, eg catering, room and venue hire for staff parties, team-building events and social activities
      • indemnity insurance (insurance cover against claims made by subjects or patients associated with a research programme)
      • ethics reviews, unless you are in a low- or middle-income country
      • radiation protection costs.
  • You can ask us to cover the costs of attending relevant scientific and academic meetings. Costs can include registration fees and travel expenses.

    You can also ask for a contribution towards the cost of hosting a conference (or a session within a conference), symposia or seminar series, if it’s for research purposes (eg data gathering) or to disseminate the findings from your research. The meeting should normally be based in the UK or Republic of Ireland and can include:

    • travel and accommodation for keynote speakers
    • room hire and catering
    • event publicity
    • conference pack publication, including name badges
    • any reasonably justified associated expenses.

What we don’t offer

Seed Awards cannot be used to: 

  • top up existing grants
  • fund part of a PhD or Master’s course
  • write up publications from previous awards and qualifications. 

We don't fund overheads unless they're included on this page (eg research management and support costs).

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

Start your application

Stages of application

  1. Before you apply

    Read about our current theme on the ethical, social and political challenges of using artificial intelligence in healthcare and biomedical research, based on a report we commissioned from Future Advocacy:  Ethical, social and political challenges of artificial intelligence in health [PDF 5MB] 

  2. Submit your full application

    You must submit your application through Grant Tracker

    View the Sample full application form for Seed Awards and Small Grants in Humanities and Social Science [PDF 203KB]

  3. Review and decision

    First Wellcome staff will determine the eligibility, suitability and competitiveness of all proposals. 

    Then a committee of internal and external experts will assess the applications. We don’t provide applicants with the names of committee members as they are selected after the applications have been reviewed by Wellcome staff. They will be specialists in the research areas of the applications we receive.

    There are no interviews. We aim to give you a decision within nine weeks of the application deadline.

    In general, we don’t give unsuccessful candidates detailed written feedback.

Disabled applicants

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


We consider applications once a year. You must submit your application by 17:00 (GMT/BST) on the deadline day. We don’t accept late applications.

June 2018 round on artificial intelligence

  • Applications deadline

    26 June 2018, 17:00 GMT

  • Decision

    August 2018

We will announce the theme for the next round in spring 2019.


Postdoctoral research

For researchers with a PhD or equivalent.

Leading a research programme

For researchers with a PhD or the equivalent, and significant postdoctoral research experience.

Returning to research

For people who want to return to a research career after a break of two years or more.

Key dates

We consider applications once a year.

June 2018 round on artificial intelligence

  • Applications deadline

    26 June 2018, 17:00 GMT

  • Decision

    August 2018

We will announce the theme for the next round in spring 2019.

Contact us

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

If you have a question about the scope and content of your proposal, contact the relevant person in our Humanities and Social Science team.

People we've funded