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Empowering UK Universities to Support Their Researchers

28 Oct, 2014

The Wellcome Trust has a wide range of funding schemes for researchers and institutions, but we’re also keen to allow universities to define their own priorities and ensure that they are able to support their researchers in a timely manner. The Wellcome Trust’s Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) is there to do just that, and today we have announced the 25 universities to receive funding from the scheme…

Unlike other Wellcome Trust funding schemes, universities that receive ISSF awards have the freedom to decide how best to spend the grant to support activities at their institutions. They might use the funds to support cross-disciplinary working, promote innovation, accelerate the clinical application of research, support early career researchers or facilitate public engagement – wherever the university judges there to be an opportunity.

As a result, many universities use the ISSF to support multiple activities.  Bristol University has used its award to establish the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute which funds fellowships, project support for basic, translational and collaborative research and public engagement activities.

Today we have announced the 25 universities in the UK who have received grants in this round of funding from the Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF).

As this graphic illustrates, the awards are spread across the country at some of the UK’s most research-intensive universities. This is the second time that the ISSF has been awarded, and this year five universities will receive ISSF funding for the first time.

ISSF map

Birkbeck, University of London, is one of the universities receiving an ISSF award for the first time this year. They are using the money to develop a co-ordinated public engagement strategy, support early career researchers, and support interdisciplinary conferences and inter-institutional collaborations.

At the University of Glasgow, ISSF funding has already been used to underpin the work of the Glasgow Polyomics facility (led by Professor Mike Barrett), which specialises in the collection, analysis and integration of biological datasets.

Universities have the flexibility of choosing how best to spend the money to support the work of their researchers, and they are also required to match the amount they receive to increase the fund available for developing their research strategies.

Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar recognises the importance of allowing universities to choose how to direct the funding. “Having spent the last year listening to universities across the UK I know that the Institutional Strategic Support Fund is one of our most valued schemes.

“The scheme is distinctive because it allows universities themselves to identify where money can be most usefully spent in pursuit of their and our strategic objectives, ranging from supporting the early careers of researchers to focusing on resources needed to develop really excellent public engagement or investment in cutting-edge research.”

Update 6/11/14: Travel and Subsistence Scheme for West Africa

Additional funding is being made available via the ISSF to support researchers who volunteer to travel to West Africa to undertake work related to the current Ebola outbreak.

The Wellcome Trust is already involved in a number of support initiatives related to the Ebola outbreak, for example funding trials of candidate drugs and vaccines, but we would also like to help support individuals willing to volunteer but who may have difficulty financing airfares, travel expenses, accommodation, subsistence and travel and health insurance cover (if available).

We have therefore agreed to make extra funds available via the ISSF scheme to enable researchers to travel to West Africa to work on Ebola related research platforms and programmes. (Research costs, and transport of large equipment, will not be covered by this funding.)

Making the decision to volunteer in West Africa is a difficult and brave one. We hope this extra funding will be helpful for the individuals who want to volunteer.

To find out more about the ISSF scheme and who to contact about funding at your university, visit the ISSF page on the Wellcome Trust website.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 29 Oct, 2014 8:21 am

    Mmm – they don’t really look to be spread across the whole UK: spread across England and Scotland with a token nod to Wales and nothing at all in NI…
    And even then, dominated by London and the SE.
    Of course, that might be a reflection on the institutions, but the spread is quite lumpy nonetheless.

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