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Future Leaders Fellowships are open for business

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, Support

The Future Leaders Fellowships (FLFs) are back for another round, to fund the most promising researchers and innovators from business and academia with up to £1.5m over four years.  

We are now looking for the next cohort of talented future leaders to apply for the upcoming round of funding, so we’ve unpacked a few common myths about the scheme to help you decide if the FLFs could be for you. 

What are the Future Leaders Fellowships?  

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship scheme offers talented early career innovators and researchers the opportunity to secure unprecedented levels of funding and support, to pursue world class research and innovation and push their careers to the next level. 

The scheme is open to UK registered businesses and the potential benefits to business - from tackling the biggest challenges in industry to building effective collaborations with academic institutions are immense (find out more: The business opportunity for Future Leaders Fellowships).  

So far, the FLFs have funded five successful business-based fellows who are engaged in delivering pioneering research and innovation across multiple industries, from aerospace to telecommunications. And we have more businesses to be announced soon, so watch this space! 

Three myths about the Future Leaders Fellowships 

#1 This is an entirely project-based funding opportunity

This scheme is a unique person-centered funding opportunity that will provide a step-change in an individual’s career. 

Therefore, applications need to demonstrate how the research and innovation work is built around the applicant’s potential as a future leader and how the organisation hosting the fellowship will support them. 

It is essential that the applicant’s voice comes through loud and clear in their application. Remember, the applicant is central to the fellowship and expected to be the driving force behind the proposed innovation or research work 

If you are looking for a project-based grant the FLFs may not be the best option for you. You may want to check out Innovate's other funding options.

#2 Only established leaders should apply 

The scheme has been designed to provide innovators and researchers earlier on in their careers with unparalleled access to funding and support which will enable them to fulfil their potential as a future leader. 

Moreover, we are looking for candidates on the journey to leadership as opposed to those who have already established themselves as a research or innovation leader in their field 

Throughout the assessment process candidates will be required to demonstrate evidence of leadership potential, including their ability to lead and develop a high-performing team and to build effective partnerships, collaborations and networks. 

However, we do recognise that leadership looks different in different sectors and on different people, so please allow your individual strengths and leadership style to shine through.  

#3 The proposed research or innovation must be digital or technology related  

There is no requirement within the FLF scheme to focus the proposed research or innovation in a particular area. 

In fact, this is our first funding scheme that spans the entire remit of UKRI, funding applicants hosted in both businesses and academic institutesfrom arts and humanities, to engineering and biosciences.  

The key is to ensure that the research or innovation is challenging and strategically important to your business, your industry and/or wider society. Plans should be original, ambitious and help to fully establish the applicant as a leader in their area 

Interested in applying or finding out more? 

The next round of the scheme is round 6 and will be open for applications from 10 November 2020.  

We encourage you to find out more by joining our first webinar for interested businesses at 10am on 9 October 2020. Registration is open now.  If you are unable to attend the live webinar, please register using the link to receive a recording of the session.

You can also visit the Future Leaders Fellowship page on the UKRI website which has additional information on candidate and business eligibility, application guidance and further resources for businesses who are interested in applying to funding round 6. And be sure to keep an eye on the Innovate UK social channels to keep up to date with FLF news.  


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  1. Comment by Peter Luebcke posted on

    There is an implication that this is for young people at the start of their careers ('early career', 'future leaders' etc). What if someone is older and is diversifying or changing direction into scientific innovation? Is there an age limit and/or would applications from people in their 50's for example not be so favourably scored? Thanks

    • Replies to Peter Luebcke>

      Comment by Abi Stocker posted on

      Thanks for your question, the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships scheme does not have an upper or lower age limit for applicants. Applicants that are diversifying and moving into a new area of research and/or innovation are welcome to apply. When applying, applicants will need to clearly articulate the benefits this brings, and how this will enhance their career trajectory and enable them to become a leader in this new area.

      To assess and justify your suitability with reference to the objectives of the scheme, please see the person specification:

  2. Comment by Vicky Edwards posted on

    Hi there. Very helpful post. I am interested in hearing from Innovate/UKRI about academic-hosted applicants that are interested in pursuing an innovation-led project, with the support of businesses. We have seen news of a recently sucessful fellow, hosted by a university and working with a number of businesses that looks to have followed this model, but I am slightly put off by the fact that much of InnovateUK's communications around the fellowship has been focussed on encouraging applications from business-hosted individuals. Do you think you could clarify please?

    • Replies to Vicky Edwards>

      Comment by Abi Stocker posted on

      Hi Vicky, many thanks for your comment. Academic-hosted applicants that are interested in applying to the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship scheme with an innovation-led project that is supported by business are absolutely welcome to apply. The scheme encourages applications from both academic and business-hosted applicants, and one of the scheme’s overarching objectives is to foster new research and innovation career paths, including those at the boundary of academia and business. Find out more on our website -

      • Replies to Abi Stocker>

        Comment by Vicky Edwards posted on

        Many thanks Abi for this helpful advice.

  3. Comment by Please mend the link! posted on

    Hello - please would you check this link - seems to be broken - just as I was trying to solicit interest from an interesting eligible company - whilst there's only 5 it would be very very helpful to see who's been successful to date...

    • Replies to Please mend the link!>

      Comment by Abi Stocker posted on

      Hello, thanks for your message. The UKRI website is currently in the process of transferring content to its new unified website. We have now updated the link. If you experience any further issues, please let us know.

  4. Comment by Angelo Aquino posted on

    Hello there. Great informative content here. Is the program open to International applicants? I am from Southeast Asia (Philippines).

    Many thanks in advance.

  5. Comment by Tris Coumbe posted on

    I've been working on my business idea during a period of gardening leave from my former job and in the two months since but have not formed my limited company yet, in order to avoid accountants' fees. Is this only for already extant companies?
    Also, will you discriminate against me for being male and white because of diversity policies or will my business/research idea be judged only on its merits? Thank you.