Seed Awards in Humanities and Social Science

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

The current funding round is on the theme of sexuality and health.

Scheme at a glance

Career stage:

Early, Intermediate, Senior, Returning to research

Level of funding:

Usually £25,000 to £50,000, but up to £100,000 for themed rounds

Duration of funding:

6 to 12 months

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

We consider applications three times a year.

  • Application deadline for the sexuality and health themed call

    16 March 2017

  • Decision

    May 2017

People we've funded

Eligibility and suitability

Who can apply

You can apply for a Seed Award as an individual or as part of a group. You must have a PhD or the equivalent professional experience.

You must be based at an eligible host organisation in the UK, Republic of Ireland or a low- or middle-income country (although collaborators can be based elsewhere).

Go to the World Bank website to see a list of low- and middle-income countries.

If you're applying to the March 2017 deadline, your application must explore the theme of sexuality and health. More information about this theme will be available soon.

After the March 2017 deadline, applications will be open again to all proposals within the humanities and social science remit.

Who can't apply

You can’t apply if you:

  • currently hold a Seed Award (although you can apply for more in the future)
  • have another Wellcome Trust award, with two or more years remaining, or 18 months if it’s a fellowship
  • are currently undertaking a Master’s or a PhD
  • want support for an existing, rather than a new, research project
  • have a discrete project, with no follow-on plans.

What we're looking for

We’re looking for proposals that aim to develop new approaches or collaborations in the humanities and social sciences and enrich our understanding of human and animal health. Activities can include:

  • pilot and scoping studies
  • planning sessions
  • meetings of collaborative networks.

We encourage applications for interdisciplinary research across our Humanities and Social Science, Science, and Innovations funding. 

Other schemes

Seed Awards in Science

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

Pathfinder Awards

Funding pilot projects that address an unmet medical need or offer a new solution to a problem.
Full details of Pathfinder Awards

Collaborative Awards in Humanities and Social Science

Promoting the development of new ideas and bringing disciplines together to speed the pace of discovery. This scheme funds teams who are tackling major health-related questions in the humanities and social sciences that require a collaborative approach.
Full details of Collaborative Awards in Humanities and Social Science
Scheme finder

What we offer

Seeds Awards are usually in the range of £25,000 to £50,000. For themed calls we'll consider proposals up to £100,000. All costs must be fully justified.  Most Seed Awards are for six to twelve months. Support can include:

  • research or teaching buy-out leave

    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 buy-out leave 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.
  • research expenses, including costs for a researcher or consultant
    • staff

      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.

      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, which should include any statutory obligations (eg National Insurance contributions if they’re based in the UK) and pension scheme costs
      • any incremental progression up the salary scale
      • locally recognised allowances such as London allowance.

      Find out more about the employing staff.

      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:

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

      We cover research management and support costs if:

      • your host organisation is in a low- or middle-income country.
      • your grant will be directly awarded to that organisation.

      These costs may 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.

      Go to the World Bank website to 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
      • explain why these costs are necessary to your research
      • include a letter from the finance director of your host organisation with your application, confirming that the costs are a true representation of the costs incurred.
    • 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.

      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. 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.

    • 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.

    • other costs

      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 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
      • 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.
  • conference and meeting 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 on a proportion of full economic costs in UK universities.

How to apply

For the March 2017 deadline, we will only accept applications that explore the current theme of sexuality and health. The application form will be available on Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker by the end of October 2016.

Stages of application

  1. Submit your full application

    When the form is available, you must submit your application through the Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker.

    View the  Sample full application form for Seed Awards in Humanities and Social Science [PDF 882KB].

  2. Review and decision

    We’ll determine the suitability and competitiveness of all eligible proposals, and aim to give you a decision within nine weeks of the application deadline. There are no interviews. In general, we don’t provide detailed written feedback to unsuccessful applicants.


We consider applications three times a year. We don't accept late applications.

  • Application deadline for the sexuality and health themed call

    16 March 2017

  • Decision

    May 2017



You’re starting your career in postdoctoral research.


You’re consolidating your research career. You lead on research projects and are establishing a research team.


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

Returning to research

You’re returning to a research career after a break of two years or more.