The Talent Fund is one of several new funds that provide significant opportunities for social science research. The funding landscape is going through a period of rapid change and social scientists must be suitably prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that funds such as the Talent Fund provide.

We have provided further information about the changing funding landscape and how you can prepare yourself for applying for the new funds:

Opportunities for social science

The Talent Fund will provide significant additional investment in the support available for early career researchers in the social sciences. The funding available through the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship scheme will be long-term and flexible and will provide a comprehensive package of support, including the fellow's salary and justified research, staff and training costs, with seven years of support available on a 4+3 model.

This funding is in addition to ESRC’s own schemes aimed at supporting early career researchers.

    About the Talent Fund

    Led by UKRI, funding to support research talent aims to grow and support the strong supply of talented individuals needed to ensure that UK research and innovation continues to be world class. Social science has a key role to play in ensuring that this happens.

    The overarching aim of the Talent Fund is to nurture the talent pipeline; to develop, retain, attract and sustain research and innovation talent in the UK. A highly-skilled and diverse workforce is crucial to reaching the government target of a total of 2.4% of GDP to be invested by public and private sectors in research and development by 2027. Funding has been provided through the National Productivity Investment Fund for activities across the research councils and Innovate UK.

      Funding and successes to date

      Funding to date has included:

      • £90 million for 1,000 new studentships across UKRI to start in 2017/18 aligned to the Industrial Strategy
      • £108 million for Early Career Researcher Innovation Fellowships
      • £49 million for additional studentships to start in 2018/19
      • PhD business placements.

      From this initial investment, ESRC has funded over 100 new studentships and 14 fellowships. This funding is in addition to opportunities offered through our core funding, so social sciences have already benefited greatly from the fund.

      Commissioning is also well underway to support 10-20 UKRI Centres for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence which will start in 2019/20. The successful centres will be announced in early 2019.

      How much funding is available?

      Around £1.3 billion will be invested in the Talent Fund between 2017 and 2024. Funding to date has included:

      • £90 million for 1,000 new studentships across UKRI to start in 2017/18 aligned to the Industrial Strategy
      • £108 million for Early Career Researcher Innovation Fellowships
      • £49 million for additional studentships to start in 2018/19
      • PhD business placements.

      From this initial investment, ESRC has funded over 100 new studentships and 14 fellowships. 

      Commissioning is also well underway to support 10-20 UKRI Centres for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence which will start in 2019/20. The successful centres will be announced in early 2019.

      Funding totaling £900 million has been allocated to the new UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships (FLF) scheme which will support early career researchers and innovators with outstanding potential in universities, UK-registered businesses, and other research and user environments including research councils' institutes and laboratories. Funding is available for fellowships of up to seven years in duration.

      Current Talent Fund opportunities

      We will publish links to ESRC Talent Fund funding opportunities when they are announced. We publish the most relevant opportunities for social science in the funding opportunities section of our website:

      There will be two calls per year for Future Leaders Fellowships between 2018/19 and 2020/21 (financial years). Information about the fellowships (including submission deadlines and panel meeting details) is available on the UKRI website:

      Who can apply for Future Leaders Fellowships?

      The FLF scheme welcomes applications from both UK and international early career researchers and innovators. The fellowships support applicants from diverse disciplines and career paths, including those returning from a career break or following time in other roles. Applications are also encouraged from those wishing to work part-time, in order to combine the fellowship with personal responsibilities.

      The objectives of the scheme are to:

      • develop, retain, attract and sustain research and innovation talent in the UK 
      • foster new research and innovation career paths including those at the academic/business and interdisciplinary boundaries, and facilitate movement of people between sectors
      • provide sustained funding and resources for the best early career researchers and innovators
      • provide long-term, flexible funding to tackle difficult and new challenges, and support adventurous, ambitious programmes.

      The support of the host institution is also a critical component of all fellowships which will enable the fellow to transition to or establish their research/innovation independence in any area supported by UKRI.

      How to apply for Future Leaders Fellowships 

      Information about the fellowships and how to apply for them are published in the funding opportunities section of our website and on the UKRI website:

      Proposals will be subject to peer review prior to panel assessment, and a call for Peer Review College members will be open later this year.