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Skills & careers

Supporting Early Career Researchers: The Transition to Independence

The MRC recognises that there are different routes available to enable scientists to transition to independence. We actively support varied career paths by providing flexibility in the range of awards we offer to ensure a fair funding system.

To acknowledge the transition to independence as a critical career step we have:

  • Clarified the different routes to support an individual’s transition to independence via MRC Fellowships  and MRC New Investigator Research Grants.
  • Increased the flexibility of our support by removing eligibility criteria based on years of post-doctoral experience. This allows for variations in career paths and recognises that the speed of career progression can be affected by factors unrelated to a person’s scientific potential.
  • Provided improved guidance on the skills and experience applicants are required to demonstrate at the time of their application in order to be competitive.

We are prioritising support for this critical career step through the following routes:

  • Fellowships: Career Development Award and Clinician Scientist Fellowships (for individuals who are clinically active) are personal awards that aim to support individuals seeking to transition to independence through protected research time and an ambitious programme of research training and personal career development.
  • Grants: New Investigator Research Grants support individuals seeking to transition to independence through their first grant as a Principal Investigator and with appropriate host institution support. The time spent on the research grant is combined with a portfolio of other activities such as teaching, time spent on other research grants, or clinical duties.

The key differences between New Investigator Research Grants and MRC fellowships are set out below: 

Who is eligible?

Eligible applicants are those who are ready to transition to independence, but have yet to do so (i.e. those who do not yet hold substantial grant income as a Principal Investigator or lead their own substantive research group). All applicants must provide a clear rationale of which form of support will best support their long term career goals and chosen career route.

Further information

Please visit the Career Development Award, Clinician Scientist Fellowship and New Investigator Research Grant web pages for more information on the aims of the schemes and how to apply. If you have further questions please contact: RFPD@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk