Wellcome Leap Fund

The Wellcome Leap Fund will be a £250 million charity designed to accelerate discovery and innovation by taking risks and providing funding at scale for ambitious scientific goals.

What we want the Wellcome Leap Fund to achieve

The Wellcome Leap Fund will aim to deliver breakthroughs that could fundamentally change science and transform human health over five to ten years.

Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome Director, talks about the vision behind the Wellcome Leap Fund.

The high-risk nature of this funding approach means that not all goals will be achieved. And we accept and embrace that, as we know that failure is an inherent part of innovation. 

For us the Wellcome Leap Fund will be successful if, by 2030, it has produced a small number of breakthroughs that:

By breakthrough we mean a significant development or achievement, such as the production of a new technology, field of science, industry or research community.

How the Wellcome Leap Fund will work

The fund will take a different funding approach to the rest of Wellcome, and the way ideas are usually funded in the health and life sciences sector. The inspiration for it comes from the technology and venture capital industries – taking on early-stage, high-risk ideas, funding at scale, and making fast and agile decisions across a portfolio of programmes. 

It will apply these principles to a small number of goal-focused programmes in the health and life sciences that will be driven by impact, not commercial return, and will operate in line with Wellcome’s charitable mission. 

We anticipate that the Wellcome Leap Fund will be established as charitable subsidiary of Wellcome, led by a CEO and governed by an independent board. The CEO will have considerable freedom to shape the portfolio, and allocate and reallocate funds to the programmes that are most successful or take advantage of promising opportunities as they arise. 

Timeline

  • 2019 – Wellcome Leap Fund CEO appointed and work starts to identify goals
  • 2020 – Wellcome Leap Fund becomes operational and funding starts
  • 2025 – four to six programmes have launched  
  • 2030 – all programmes have been completed 

What and who the Wellcome Leap Fund will fund

It will back scientific goals that ask ‘what if?’ rather than ‘what is?’, and look to make these theoretical goals a reality at speed and scale. It will encourage disruptive thinking and support unconventional ideas or approaches that are often seen as high risk.

Unlike Wellcome’s existing funding schemes, this will not be an open, response-mode scheme for researchers and teams to apply to. The CEO will work with the external community to decide what scientific goals the fund will support and identify the people to direct these programmes.

The fund will support and bring together scientists, technologists and innovators across different disciplines, sectors and communities to work in parallel and solve problems differently. They could be from anywhere in the world – what’s key is their vision and original thinking.

We’re looking for a CEO and a Chair to lead the Wellcome Leap Fund

We’re running a global search to find a CEO to lead the Wellcome Leap Fund and a Chair to lead the independent Wellcome Leap Fund Board.

The CEO will be a global leader who is mission-focused and has substantial entrepreneurial experience. The ideal candidate will have a mixed background and broad networks across scientific, innovation, venture capital and technology sectors. We’re looking for someone who will bring: 

  • significant experience of directing a multi-million-pound organisation or portfolio 
  • a track record of multidisciplinary innovation 
  • and a familiarity with different scientific disciplines and fields.

In a Chair we’re looking for someone who is complementary to the CEO in their experience and expertise and: 

  • has significant experience holding non-executive board or governing board chair positions for large organisations or companies 
  • is a seasoned leader in the sciences, technology, engineering, innovation, venture capital or related sectors
  • and has an excellent track record in their career to date, including experience of taking risks and overcoming failures.

These vacancies are being managed on Wellcome's behalf by international search firm Spencer Stuart. To find out more about these roles, including job descriptions, person specification and details of how to apply, contact wellcomeleapfund@SpencerStuart.com.

For any other questions about the Wellcome Leap Fund, contact wellcomeleapfund@wellcome.ac.uk.

More information

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