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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. These long term fellowships provide the opportunity and freedom to build an independent research career in the UK or Republic of Ireland and pursue cutting-edge scientific research.

Changes to the Fellowship

Until 2022, the University Research Fellowship (URF) was a five-year fellowship, with the option to apply for a three-year extension. From the 2022 application round onwards, applicants have the opportunity to submit a research proposal and costs for an eight-year fellowship. Costs for years six to eight are subject to satisfactory progress and completion of a mid-fellowship checkpoint review at the start of year four. Additionally, researchers can now apply for up to £90,000 research expenses per annum to support the research programme proposed in their application.

These changes were introduced to increase the stability of funding available to URFs, support them to develop their research group and give them the opportunity to focus on their research aims with a reduced administrative workload. 

The scheme offers you:

  • the opportunity to build an independent research career
  • freedom, time and long term flexible support to pursue high-quality and innovative lines of scientific research
  • support to develop as a research leader by offering tailored, high-quality professional development, networking and engagement opportunities
  • flexibility to accommodate personal circumstances such as caring responsibilities or health related needs

This scheme is highly flexible to accommodate for part-time working, sabbaticals and secondments. There is also provision for maternity, paternity, adoptive or extended sick leave (PDF).

Am I eligible to apply?

Research must be within the Royal Society’s remit of natural sciences, which includes but is not limited to biological research and biomedical sciences, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics. For a full list, please see the breakdown of subject groups and areas supported by the Royal Society.

Those applying from Ireland (ROI) are funded by Science Foundation Ireland and will need to read the eligibility requirements in the specific scheme notes.

You can apply for this scheme if you:

  • have between three to eight years of research experience since your PhD by the closing date of the round. Career breaks are taken into account; please refer to the scheme notes for further detail
  • do not hold a permanent post (including proleptic or rolling contract of employment) in a university or not for profit research organisation
  • do not hold, or have not previously held, an equivalent fellowship that provides an opportunity to establish an independent research group and therefore independent researcher status

For further information about how to apply, read the FAQs (PDF).

Before applying, please ensure that you meet all eligibility requirements laid out in the scheme notes.

What is the scheme’s value and duration?

From the round opening in July 2022, appointments will be made for an eight-year period, but confirmation of funding for years 6 to 8 will be subject to completion of a satisfactory mid-fellowship checkpoint review at the start of year four.

The scheme provides:

  • Research Fellow's salary: 80% of the basic salary costs up to £41,675 in the first year, estates costs and indirect costs
  • Contribution to research expenses of £90,000 per annum

Read the scheme notes for full value of award information.

University Research Fellows have the opportunity to access a range of training programmes covering topics including leadership, science communication and public engagement. Furthermore, opportunities arise throughout the year for University Research Fellows to meet with other award holders and participate in activities coordinated by the science policy, public engagement, schools outreach and industry engagement teams at the Society. For further details relating to the additional benefits of holding a Royal Society Research Fellowship, read our summary page.

What is the application process?

Applications should be submitted through the Society’s grant management system Flexi-Grant®.

Your application will go through the process detailed on the Making a grant application page overseen by one of our five research appointment panels based on your research area.

  • Ai: Astronomy, cosmology, physics, earth sciences, environmental physical sciences & geosciences 
  • Aii: Chemistry and engineering
  • Aiii: Pure and applied mathematics, computer science, statistics, communications and computer engineering; the mathematical aspects of astronomy, physics, cosmology, gravitation, theoretical physics
  • Bi: Molecular and cellular biology, zoology, plant sciences and physiology
  • Bii: Biomedical Sciences

For further information on the Research Appointment Panels, please see our Standing Committees page.

Interviews will be held in April at the Royal Society - you are advised to keep this period free. You will be notified of the result of the application process in May.

The Royal Society recognises that diversity is essential for delivering excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Society wants to encourage applications from the widest range of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences to maximise innovation and creativity in science for the benefit of humanity. We regularly review and revise processes to help ensure that all talented applicants have an equitable chance to succeed as per the assessment criteria. This includes ensuring all panel members are briefed on unconscious bias in decision making as part of the assessment process.

Please note a new statement for applicants on the impacts of COVID-19 has been released on our website. 

Support with your application

For additional advice and information to support your application, see our page with top tips, details of the support we offer to applicants with disabilities, and Frequently Asked Questions.

For more information regarding the scheme, please contact the Grants team on or call us on +44 20 7451 2666.

Below, you can read case studies from our University Research Fellows. You can also read an in-depth report on the career pathways of our alumni on the Career Pathway Tracker page.

Meet our University Research Fellows

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