Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards build on the Trust's mission to support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. They will support exceptional researchers in pursuing innovative approaches that will push the boundaries of research and make discoveries with the potential to lead to improvements in health.
The new initiative is modelled on the Trust's highly successful fellowship schemes, which provide funding for scientists at all stages of their careers, and give them the flexibility and length of tenure to enable them to tackle important research questions. It extends the model of personal support to researchers in established academic posts - that is, those who have permanent, open-ended or long-term rolling contracts of employment salaried by their university or research institution.
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says: "We have had a very positive response from the community to the announcement of the Wellcome Trust Investigator Awards. Researchers want flexibility in length and scale of funding. They do not want to be tied into a cycle of focusing on securing grants rather than tackling major research problems. Our new Awards will provide the opportunities and resources researchers need to address challenging problems."
Funding will be flexible in both length and scale. Awards of up to £425,000 per year for up to seven years will be made depending on the experience, ambition and vision of the researcher, and the resources required to realise this vision. The Awards will be made to researchers at two levels - New Investigators and Senior Investigators - depending on their career stage.
At the point of application, researchers will no longer be expected to provide a detailed methodological description of how their work will be carried out or a line-by-line budget. The application form will ask researchers to outline their research vision, their approach to answering their key research questions and the approximate costs needed.
The new award scheme will be accompanied by the establishment of new decision-making bodies, which will expand the range of expertise involved in the shortlisting and selection of candidates, and provide an opportunity to align the Trust's funding decisions with the major challenges set out in its Strategic Plan.
Applications will be shortlisted by Expert Review Groups, which will comprise independent research scientists from the UK and overseas. These groups will assess the vision, ambition and track record of each applicant and the potential of the applicant to achieve his or her aims. Shortlisted applications will be sent out to peer review by referees both in the UK and internationally. Finally, applicants will be invited to interview by a Selection Panel, where they will be given the opportunity to present their case.
The first round of applications for Investigator Awards will open on 1 October 2010, with the first awards due to be made in May 2011.