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Annex 1: Future Leaders Fellowships and background on role and format of the panels
Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF)
FLFs support talented people in universities, businesses, and other research and innovation environments. They also allow universities and businesses to develop their most talented early career researchers and innovators or to attract new people to their organisations, including from overseas.
The aim of the scheme is to develop the next wave of world-class research and innovation leaders across academia and business. FLFs fund research and innovation projects in all areas supported by UKRI, with many interdisciplinary fellowships meeting the remit of 2 or more councils.
Funding is available for 4 years in the first instance and can be renewed for a further 3 years through our fellowship renewal scheme (all fellows are invited to apply for this in year 3 of their fellowship).
Find out more about Future Leaders Fellowships.
Next meeting dates
The FLF round 7 panel dates are as follows:
- sift panel meetings: week commencing 10 July 2023
- interview panel meetings: week commencing 11 September 2023
Role and format of the panels
UKRI FLF panels take place in 2 stages, enabling the allocation of FLF funding to individuals who show outstanding potential to become world-leading innovators and researchers.
Our panels strike a balance between the use of expert information (provided through written, expert reviews), and deploying generalist understanding to moderate and score proposals.
Rather than focusing on narrow or specialist disciplines, FLF panels are cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral and reflect the interdisciplinary nature and open remit of the scheme. Crucially, the role of a sift panel is to form conclusions based on interpretation of the specialist peer review reports, the applicants’ response to these reports, and panel members’ broad sectoral expertise.
Panels are bespoke and formed for every meeting. Expertise required on the panels is determined by the applications we receive, and the applications that progress to interview (meaning, your expertise may be required at the sift panel stage, but not at the interview should no proposals in your area be taken forward).
Currently, applications from academia and from business are assessed separately at the interview.
The purpose of the FLF sift panels is to shortlist competitive proposals which will be prioritised for interview. For round 7, we anticipate a maximum of 500 proposals. This will be assessed in multiple simultaneous 2-day sift panels over a period of 4 days (approximately 10 to 13 sift panels).
At the end of the 4 days, each sift panel will produce a scored and prioritised list of proposals. These lists will then be tensioned to produce a list of up to 200 candidates who will be considered for an interview.
The interview panels are the final assessment stage for the FLF awards. At the end of the interview stage there will be ranked and recommended lists of applications for funding.
The approach taken to FLF panels is likely to be different from other UKRI interview panels you may have experienced previously. Therefore, if invited to participate it is essential all panel members also participate in panel briefing sessions.
Annex 2: panel member testimonials
Dr Alison Burdett (Sensium-Healthcare)
Being a member of the FLF review panel has been an incredibly enjoyable experience. The applications are generally of a very high standard and so are a pleasure to review, while the breadth of topics means that you learn a lot about subjects that are tangential to your specific area of expertise.
The review panel membership itself is also broad. I found myself (an engineer) alongside clinicians, historians, physicists and social scientists, who all brought different perspectives and insights to the topic under discussion. The panel was one of the most constructive and collaborative I have served on, and I have formed new colleagues and collaborations with people I met on the review panel.
Jan Wolber (GE Healthcare Ltd)
Firstly, I was very pleased to see this scheme being launched. I thought, and I still think, that this is exactly what the UK needs to offer a long-term perspective to ambitious and excellent early career researchers who wish to establish themselves.
The FLF scheme should be able to retain talent in the UK and attract talent from elsewhere. I believe that those expectations have been fulfilled, judging from some of the applications that I have seen.
Secondly, I also want to give some of my time to the community of researchers that I collaborate with in order to sustain and possibly enhance the quality of research and innovation in the UK.
I have enjoyed reading a variety of highly interesting applications, some of which contain fascinating science.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the panels, I have learned about aspects of science that I might not normally interact with. I have also enjoyed being part of the FLF reviewer community and have had great conversations with other panel members during some of the face-to-face panel meetings.
Another aspect I have enjoyed very much is the mentoring of a FLF who is now getting to the point of renewal after 4 years.
FLF applications are unique in that they ask the applicant to think very broadly about a scientific programme of work but also about themselves, their own development and how to assemble a group and look after their team members and educate them. As such, they truly deserve being labelled with the possibly overused term ‘leadership’. The philosophy at the heart of the FLF scheme has influenced my approach when coaching junior colleagues in my work environment.
Firstly, the FLF scheme has broadened my understanding of the scientific community in the UK. It has influenced my thinking about career trajectories and leadership. It has also allowed a younger colleague and former PhD student to obtain a FLF award, which will ensure continuity in the research field that I joined 25 years ago.
It is positive that the FLF scheme is also available to applicants from industry. I am under the impression that the number of applications and the number of awards to industry applicants are still significantly below those from an academic background.
But I hope that with some successful industry FLF awards and possibly more people from industry joining the review panels, there will be an increased awareness of FLF across industries, better recognition of what makes an excellent industrial FLF applicant, and a higher success rate of those applications.
Professor John Stairmand (Jacobs)
I have supported peer review and panel meetings for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Science and Technology Facilities Council for some time.
The FLF scheme follows a similar process, and I have always found that my engagement with it gives me excellent state-of-the-art insights into methods and approaches that are being taken by the best innovative research talent in the country.
In addition, I can establish connections with fellow panellists, many of whom are current technical leaders. The insights into early researcher career development are also useful for informing internal staff development. I have been involved in the FLF Panel College since its inception and have always found it to be a rewarding and motivating experience.
Dr Su Varma (NSG European Technical Centre)
I was invited to join the FLF Panel College in late 2018 and have been involved in several rounds over the past 4 years in various roles and stages of the process.
As I have stated at cohort meetings and publicly, it has been and continues to be one of the best experiences of my career, as it’s not often one gets to read about, assess, engage, and interact with globally leading young talent in so many different fields of research activities!
It really is very rewarding and incredibly useful to learn about new topics, some of which I didn’t even think existed! I’m constantly blown away by the depth of quality of the applicants. It is also so nice to come across highly articulate and confident young researchers who, no doubt, will be leading many of their chosen fields in the future.
I have used this experience in providing advice to as many young talented scientists, in and outside my own area of expertise, to encourage them to be ambitious and apply for rewarding fellowships like the FLF to sustain their holistic development.
My membership in the FLF Panel College within my company is highly regarded due to the prestige it is seen to bring to the organisation.
In conclusion, I feel very privileged to be part of the world’s leading talent recognition scheme and highly impressed by the diversity of research topics and of applicants too. It is even more encouraging to see businesses engaging with their best talent! UKRI should be highly commended for developing this unique FLF scheme.