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University Research Fellowship

This scheme is for outstanding scientists who are in the early stages of their research career and have the potential to become leaders in their field.

Crystals of the phage tail fibre protein Hylp1. Credit: Dr Edward J Taylor, University Research Fellow from the University of Lincoln.

This Fellowship provides the opportunity to build an independent research career. Those appointed are expected to be strong candidates for permanent posts in universities at the end of their fellowships.

It covers all areas of the life and physical sciences, including engineering, but excluding clinical medicine. Researchers addressing a direct biomedical research question should apply for a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship.

Suitable individuals of any nationality can apply for a University Research Fellowship to be held in an eligible UK host research organisation.

Please note: Applicants proposing to be based in Ireland (ROI) are funded by the Science Foundation Ireland and must apply for Royal Society – Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellowships. Before applying, please ensure that you meet all the eligibility requirements, which are explained in the scheme notes

Am I eligible to apply?

You can apply for this scheme if you:

  • have a PhD (note we will not consider applicants who have just submitted their PhD)
  • are in the early stages of your research career and have between 3 to 8 years of research experience since your PhD by the closing date of the round (note career breaks are taken into account)
  • do not hold a permanent post in a university or not for profit research organisation
  • do not hold or previously have held a fellowship that provides an opportunity to establish an independent research group and therefore independent researcher status, i.e. that allows the applicant to submit research grants as a PI or be registered as the primary supervisor of a PhD student. For example, STFC Rutherford Fellowship, NERC Independent Research Fellowship, EPSRC Early Career Fellowship or BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship. (Note holders of postdoctoral fellowships such as MCSA can apply. Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellows who meet with the research experience eligibility requirements outlined above can also apply).


The Society’s fellowships are highly flexible and part-time working, sabbaticals and secondments can be accommodated. There is also provision for maternity, paternity, adoptive or extended sick leave.

When applying, the Society will consider time spent outside the research environment when assessing eligibility. Additionally, where applicants have taken formal periods of maternity, paternity, and adoptive leave as the primary carer (either the mother, father, partner or adopter), or extended sick leave, the Society will allow the actual time of leave taken, as well as an additional six months for each period of leave when assessing eligibility (e.g. 18 months will be allocated for someone who has taken 12 months of parental leave).

More information can be found in the Society’s policy on maternity, paternity, adoptive or extended sick leave.

What is the scheme’s value and tenure?

The scheme provides:

  • 80% of the basic salary costs up to £40,030.34 in the first year, estates costs and indirect costs. (Under the full economic costing model, 80% of these costs will be met by the Royal Society).
  • Research expenses (up to £13,000 for the first year and up to £11,000 annually thereafter).

Initially funding is provided for five years with the opportunity to apply for an extension of three additional years. The University Research Fellowship provides researchers with maximum flexibility and can be held part-time, and allows sabbaticals, secondments or international experience.

The basic salary requested should be at a level commensurate with the applicant’s skills, responsibilities, expertise and experience, up to a maximum of £40,030.34 per annum. An annual spine point increase of 3% may be applied to the salary. For more information about indexation and inflationary increases, please refer to the scheme notes.

Equivalent values for Royal Society - Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellowships (funded by Science Foundation Ireland), are available in the scheme notes.

Successful University Research Fellows and Dorothy Hodgkin Fellows who are about to start their first year are eligible to apply for a research grant of up to £150,000. A significant proportion of first year University Research Fellows and Dorothy Hodgkin Fellows will receive this additional start up grant.

What is the application process?

Applications should be submitted through the Royal Society’s grants management system (Flexi-Grant®) when the round opens.

Applications are initially reviewed and then shortlisted by members of University Research Fellowship Selection Panels. Applicants are notified if they have reached the shortlisting stage.

The shortlisted proposals are reviewed by three independent referees suggested by the panel members and successful applicants are shortlisted for interview. Applicants are informed of the result of this stage and interviews take place in early to mid-April 2018.

The final decision is made at a meeting of the panel Chairs in April, and applicants are notified of the result.

Please note that interviews for the fellowships are held at the Royal Society. Applicants are asked to keep April free. Only applicants that pass the other stages of assessment will be invited.

Find a list of the 2017 awards.

Case studies

Dr Ashleigh Griffin

Dr Zita Martins

Dr Toby Cubitt