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Skills & careers

Career Development Award (CDA): Transition to independence

Purpose of scheme

The CDA supports talented post-doctoral researchers to lead their own research plans and establish their own research team to make the transition from post-doctoral researcher to independent investigator.

A CDA provides funding for a challenging research programme, and an ambitious programme of research training which offers accelerated personal and career development.

Applicants wishing to retain an existing position and combine this with research funding, should consider funding options under one of the grant schemes. You may wish to pay particular attention to the New Investigator Research Grant scheme, which aims to support individuals wanting to transition to independence.


Scientific remit: You can apply across all areas of the MRC’s scientific remit. Applications may range from basic studies with relevance to mechanisms of disease to translational and developmental clinical research.

Person remit: Applicants proposing to continue their existing work, which is indistinct from their current group / leader, are not suitable to apply to the scheme and will be rejected (as specified in our peer review guidance).Please see FAQ on what is within remit of the scheme for further information.


The CDA provides up to five years’ support. Applicants are expected to take advantage of the full five years’ funding available.  Applicants intending to apply for less than five year’s support should contact the programme manager at fellows@mrc.ukri.org before submitting a proposal.

Take-up date for the fellowship is between 1-6 months of the meeting decision date which is displayed on our deadlines page.

Joint funding

We are proud to collaborate with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Parkinson’s UK, The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Borne Foundation and The Tuberous Sclerosis Association (TSA), to offer jointly funded CDA awards. These awards offer the prestige of having the relevant organisation co-fund your fellowship and may offer additional opportunities to report on your project, present your work at meetings and for professional networking.

We consider all applications in open competition. Therefore, a request for joint funding will have no effect on the outcome of your application. The submission procedure and deadline is the same as the standard competition. We will offer any jointly funded fellowships at the same funding level as any other CDA and under standard MRC terms and conditions except where additional terms and conditions are specified by the joint funder.

To apply for joint funding, you must include the joint funding form (indicating which joint funder you wish to be considered by) as part of your cover letter.


  • There are no eligibility rules based on years of post-doctoral experience. To be considered suitable for the scheme, applicants should be able to clearly demonstrate that their skills and experience at the time of their application match those of the transition to independence career stage in the applicant skills and experience table.
  • To be within remit, all applicants must clearly explain why a fellowship is the best way to support their long term career goals and chosen career route, and how a fellowship would enable a move to the next level in their careers, through a change in their current role. Applicants proposing to continue research they are undertaking in their current position, which is indistinct from their current group / group leader, are not within the remit of this scheme.
  • Applicants are normally expected to hold a PhD, however, in some cases applicants without a PhD may be considered if they are able to clearly demonstrate their skills and experience match those of the transition to independence career stage in the applicant skills and experience table. Individuals should contact fellows@mrc.ukri.org to discuss their suitability for the scheme prior to applying.
  • Career breaks, flexible working and changes in discipline will be taken into account when assessing research experience to date and track record.

Non-European Economic Area Applicants and Tier 1 visas

Successful applicants who require a visa to work in the UK will be eligible to be considered under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route. In line with the highly prestigious nature of the award, this visa route is designed for people who are internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts and enables the holder to be both adaptable and flexible during their research in the UK.

The grant of any visa is always subject to the standard Home Office general grounds for refusal of a visa. UKRI is able to provide additional guidance regarding the appropriate evidence required to complete the visa application process under the Exceptional Talent visa.  Please contact fellowtier1info@rcuk.ac.uk for further details.

Funding provided

The CDA provides full personal salary costs, together with support for research staff, consumables expenses, travel costs and capital equipment appropriate for the research project.

Applicants are particularly encouraged to consider the opportunities the fellowship offers to establish collaborative networks and for cross-sector development, as the award will support a period of research overseas, at a second UK institution, or within industry where appropriate for the research project.

Awards are made under the full economic costing framework (FEC). There is no limit to the funding that can be requested under the scheme, but requests should be appropriate to the project and sufficiently justified in terms of delivering the objectives of the research proposal. 

Non-fellowship activities

All MRC fellowship schemes provide competitive salaries, allowing fellows protected time to fully concentrate on their research, training and development. As part of a full-time award, fellows may spend up to six hours a week (pro-rated for part-time fellows) on other commitments (eg teaching, demonstrating, other funded projects).

Greater flexibility on the time dedicated to non-fellowship activities (eg those detailed above or obtaining grant support) may be permitted during the second half of a fellowship. Existing fellows wishing to pursue other project funding should contact fellows@mrc.ukri.org prior to making any commitment.

Benefits of being a MRC fellow

Beyond the fellowship award, MRC fellows enjoy a range of opportunities to develop their skills and networks. For more information on the opportunities available, see what to expect as an MRC fellow.

Deadlines and submission details

  • The CDA competition is held twice a year. Application deadline dates can be found on the deadlines page.

  • You should consult the applicant skills and experience table, Guidance for Fellowship Applicants and CDA FAQs page carefully in preparing an application, as applications that differ from the requested format may be rejected without review. If you have further questions after reading these pages, please contact: fellows@mrc.ukri.org.

  • Please read the skills and experience required carefully.  In conjunction with your host institution, you should evaluate your track record and assess whether you meet the skills and experience required for a given scheme prior to applying. If you still need further guidance you may contact the relevant Programme Manager via fellows@mrc.ukri.org to confirm your suitability for any MRC fellowship scheme. To enable us to advise, you must include your CV (using the correct CV template), a one page project outline and a list of publications with your enquiry.
  • Please note, applicants may submit to any MRC fellowship scheme only twice regardless of the extent of changes to the proposal.