What is the Research Fellowship scheme?
The programme is aimed to support outstanding early-career researchers, who have been awarded their PhD in the last four years to enable them to become future research leaders in engineering.
Who can apply?
Early-career researchers worldwide with a PhD, which was awarded (or the PhD has been unconditionally approved) no more than four years before the submission deadline.
There are no nationality and age restrictions for applicants, but Research Fellowships must be held at a UK higher education institution/university or a UK research organisation that is eligible to receive UKRI funding and in a department that can show it is capable of fully supporting an engineering-focused research project and researcher. In addition, the host institution must agree to provide the Research Fellow all the support normal for a permanent employee.
The host institution is responsible for securing all necessary work permits and related costs for the Research Fellows. Applications will be assessed on the assumption that applicants have obtained the necessary work permit in the UK.
What are the eligibility criteria in terms of PhD award dates?
Applicants for the Research Fellowship must have a PhD that has been awarded or unconditionally approved up to four years before the submission deadline. A margin of up to three months beyond the four-year limit is acceptable. This refers specifically to the date the PhD was awarded/unconditionally approved rather than the date of thesis submission, PhD viva or graduation. For the PhD to be defined as unconditionally approved, applicants should have received a statement of confirmation from their university, issued after the viva had taken place and any corrections had been implemented fully. Applicants are not required to submit this statement as part of their application.
In cases where the applicant’s PhD was awarded more than four years before the submission deadline and there are extenuating circumstances (for example, maternity/paternity leave, extended sick leave, national service, or caring responsibilities), this will be taken into consideration if the relevant dates and details are provided in the application form.
In cases where the applicant has more than one PhD, the four-year limit will apply from the date the first PhD was awarded if both PhDs are in engineering disciplines.
What are the benefits of the programme
Each application is capped at a maximum contribution from the Academy of £625,000 over a five-year period at 80% of full economic costs. The host institution is responsible for providing the remaining costs. For further details, please refer to the 'Resources requested' section in the applicant guidance notes.
The scheme is funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
In addition to the financial support, the scheme also provides mentoring support from an Academy Fellow, training and networking opportunities.
Is the programme FEC?
The funding is at 80% of full economic costs.
What does the programme fund?
What does the programme not fund?
What are the key dates to know?
Frequency of award cycle
Applications are open once a year, opening in May and closing in September. There is one stage of applications only.
Please refer to the applicant guidance notes for information on the key dates.
Start date of award
Research Fellowships must start between 1 August and 31 October, unless otherwise advised by the Academy. Please refer to the applicant guidance notes for information on the key dates.
Duration of award
The duration of a Research Fellowship is five years full time, calculated on a pro-rata basis for part-time awards. Research Fellowships cannot be held for less than five years as they are intended for projects of significant scope only. Requests for a shorter Research Fellowship are not accepted.
What is the review process?
Stage one: general reviews
Each eligible application will be assessed by three reviewers (Academy Fellows or former Research Fellows). The application should be written to help non-expert reviewers understand the research content. Based on the reviewers’ comments and scores, the sift panel (consisting of Academy Fellows) will conduct moderation reviews and select applications proceeding to stage two: expert reviews.
Stage two: expert reviews
Each selected application will be assessed by three expert reviewers. The expert reviewers will be asked to provide comments, a score, and key technical questions (if any) that the applicant should clarify. The technical questions will be forwarded to the applicant for their response (please refer to the applicant guidance notes for the timeline). The shortlist panel will then moderate the expert reviewers' comments and scores along with the applicants' response to technical questions to select strong candidates for stage three: interviews.
Stage three: interviews
Interviews will take place online or at the Academy in London. Each interview will be conducted by a panel of four Academy Fellows and will be 30 minutes long. This includes a five-minute presentation from the candidate. Please refer to the applicant guidance note for interview dates.
How do I apply?
Can I submit two ideas?
No. There is a limit on the number of applications each host institution can submit. If a host institution submits more than the permitted number of applications, they will be asked to withdraw any applications exceeding this limit (please refer to the 'Application limit' section in the applicant guidance notes). Host institutions are likely to have an internal selection process that applicants must find out in advance.
It is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the host institution and gain the formal approval from the relevant head of department or school before applying.
Can I reapply?
Yes. Applicants who have applied to this scheme before and were unsuccessful are eligible to reapply.
What reporting requirements will be expected of me throughout the duration of the award?
Research Fellows are required to submit a progress and financial summary report to the Academy each year. The Research Fellow, Academy representative and mentor will meet annually to discuss the report, identify progress being made, and suggest future plans.
Research Fellows are responsible for arranging the annual progress report meetings with their mentors. The head of department or school should be invited to two out of the five meetings to ensure sufficient support is provided to the Research Fellow. Research Fellows will also be asked to provide some key data of their annual performances (e.g. publications and additional research funding) for the purpose of auditing and reporting to the Academy’s funders. Post-award information can be found on our policies page.
Who to contact for further information?
I am a member of a multidisciplinary research group - can I apply?
Applications are encouraged from members of multidisciplinary research groups, provided that the research undertaken can be readily classified as engineering and will have engineering outcomes and the Research Fellowship is held in a department that can show it is capable of fully supporting an engineering-focused research project and researcher.
Will you help me find a host institution in the UK so that I can apply?
It is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the host institution and gain the formal approval from the relevant head of department or school before submitting an application.
It is strongly recommended that all potential applicants contact their intended host institution as soon as possible due to the application number limit that applies to all UK higher education institution/universities and research organisations. Host institutions are likely to have an internal selection process that applicants must find out in advance.
Can Research Fellowships be held at an industrial institution?
Research Fellowships cannot be held at industrial institutions. However, research may be carried out with an industrial collaborator, providing the research is relevant to the programme of Research Fellowships.
How can I tell if the letters of support from my collaborators are relevant?
If you have a collaborator (not the chosen host institution and current employer) who will be contributing financially or in kind to the Research Fellowship, a letter of support from the collaborator detailing their contribution will be required. Letters of support must:
- Be on headed paper and clearly state who they are from
- Be from external collaborators i.e., people and organisations NOT working at the host institution and its affiliates
- Be signed
- Confirm that the author knows the applicant
- Explain why they are interested in the project
- Provide details on what form the collaboration will take
- Clearly demonstrates the nature of the collaboration and how it will be beneficial to you and the project
- Be no more than two pages
As reviewers are asked to assess these alongside your plans for collaboration, aim for quality over quantity and keep the letters short and concise to better enable the reviewer to identify the salient information. A bullet-point list of contributions is a highly effective method of making the reviewers’ role easier.
The company that is providing me with a letter of support cannot provide me with one until after the closing date. Can I submit this afterwards?
No, letters of support need to be submitted by the closing date. You cannot add these to your application once it has been submitted. In cases where an application refers to a collaborator who is contributing to the grant, but does not have a letter of support to corroborate the collaboration, will be considered as 'sought after' rather than agreed.
I've had a paper published since submitting my application, can I update it?
Once submitted, an application is considered final and cannot be updated or amended. Should you reach the interview stage, you can raise further developments at your presentation to the interview panel.
Can a Research Fellow move during the course of the fellowship?
A degree of mobility during the Research Fellowship may be beneficial. This would include plans to engage in collaborative research at centres of excellence overseas, but in such cases the Research Fellow will still be employed by the UK host institution.
Any proposal to transfer the Research Fellowship to a different host institution within the UK would need to be discussed with the existing and proposed host institutions. In addition, the Research Fellow is required to discuss the transfer with their RAEng mentor to get their advice. If the new host institution agrees to host the Research Fellowship and the mentor supports the transfer, the Academy will normally be agreeable to a transfer should it be justifiable and beneficial for the Research Fellowship.
Such a transfer will rarely be approved within the first or last years of the Research Fellowship. Research Fellowships cannot be transferred to non-UK institutions.
Can the Research Fellowship be interrupted?
Research Fellows may interrupt their Research Fellowship on one occasion, if they need to spend time on activities unsupported by it. Although the activities should relate to their overall research programme in some way. Such periods of suspension must not exceed 12 months. Prior agreement must be sought from the Academy.
Interruptions are not permitted in the first or last years of the Research Fellowship. Where periods of suspension are agreed, the Academy may also agree to extend the Research Fellowship by a period of time up to the length of the suspension.
Research Fellows are entitled to maternity, paternity and adoption leave under the host institution’s normal conditions of employment. The Academy will extend the duration of the Research Fellowship pro-rata, to take into account such periods of leave and any conversions to part time working.
Research Fellows with caring responsibilities for children, elderly relatives or dependents should liaise directly with the host institution if they wish to apply for part-time or flexible working.
Can Research Fellows pursue other work during the course of their Research Fellowship?
Research Fellows are required to devote all their working time to the Research Fellowship programme of work. The Research Fellowship must be the Research Fellow's only source of employment. Up to four hours a week may be spent on teaching and adminstration duties, and consultancy work.
Research Fellows are encouraged to apply for further funding from other institutions, but these grants should not include any components that requires the Research Fellows to reduce their time working on the Research Fellowship. The further funding should not cause any delay and interruption to the completion of the Research Fellowship.
Can a Research Fellowship be held part-time?
Research Fellowships can be held part-time, but must be the only form of employment. The request for a part-time Research Fellowship (at no less than 50% of full-time equivalent) must be made clear within the application. Alternatively, the Research Fellowship can be converted from full time to part time, or from part time to full time, during the fellowship, assuming the host institution’s HR department supports the request.
Can the Research Fellowship be extended?
Extensions beyond the five-year period of the Research Fellowship are not permitted except in extenuating circumstance (e.g. maternity, paternity, sick leave and caring responsibility).
Will the additional applications submitted by candidates belonging to the underrepresented groups be reviewed separately from other applications?
No. All applications undergo the same review process irrespective of submission type.
Do I need to change to a new institution different to my PhD institution to show my research independence?
No. Applicants' research independence will not be assessed purely by the change of their PhD institution. The research independence is assessed in terms of the candidate's research profile and track record, and the support provided by the host institution and its appropriateness for the proposed research programme.