BBSRC Discovery Fellowships 2023


Apply for funding to carry out independent research within a host laboratory and gain leadership skills.

You must be able to demonstrate appropriate and relevant research, technical or innovation experience.

You are not eligible to apply if you hold or have held any post or position at lecturer level (or equivalent in an institution other than a university).

The fellowship must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for BBSRC funding.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £500,000. BBSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project must be within BBSRC’s remit.

This is the only Discovery Fellowship funding opportunity open in 2023.

Your fellowship will last 3 years. You can choose to work full time or part time. Part-time fellowships will be pro rata.

Who Can Apply

This funding opportunity is open to early career researchers wishing to carry out independent research within a host laboratory. Applicants on an upward trajectory to pursuing working independently and developing research leadership are encouraged to apply.

The fellowship must be held in the UK at:

  • approved UK higher education institutions
  • approved research council institutes
  • independent research organisations

Find full details of approved research organisations.

You should be able to demonstrate appropriate and relevant research or innovation experience. This could be through:

  • recent completion of a PhD or other higher qualification
  • relevant employment within a research or innovation environment

You do not need to hold, or be studying for, a PhD in order to apply.

You must also be able to evidence reasonable scientific and technical skills and competencies, in line with the ambitions of the Discovery Fellowships scheme.

If you are currently studying for a PhD, you are only eligible if you are expecting to have passed your PhD viva before 30 November 2023.

There is no limit on the number of years postdoctoral or work experience.

Holders of postdoctoral training fellowships such as the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions can apply. Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellows and Daphne Jackson Trust Fellows who meet all eligibility requirements may also apply.

Applicants that have been included on applications as a researcher co-investigator are eligible to apply, provided they still meet all eligibility criteria.

You may only submit 1 application for a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship each year.

Who is not eligible to apply

You should not apply if you hold, or have ever held:

  • a position at lecturer level (or the equivalent in an institution other than a university)
  • an equivalent competitive fellowship that allows you to establish an independent research group, and therefore independent researcher status

In addition, you should not have been offered such an appointment before taking up a Discovery Fellowship. This applies to both fixed-term and permanent positions, and includes positions held at overseas institutions.

If you hold a fellowship where you are eligible to supervise PhD students or submit research grants as a principal investigator, we consider that equivalent to a lectureship. As a result, you are not eligible to apply.

Examples of these fellowships include, but are not limited to:

  • Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellowships
  • Medical Research Council Career Development Awards
  • Natural Environment Research Council independent research fellowships

If you have previously applied for BBSRC grant funding as a principal investigator or co-investigator, you are also not eligible to apply.

Prospective applicants unsure of their eligibility status should email to confirm before they apply.

International applicants

We welcome applicants of all nationalities subject to the fellowship being hosted in the UK.

All successful applicants who require a visa to work in the UK are eligible to be considered under the Global Talent visa route. This replaces the previous Tier 1 (exceptional talent) route.

In line with the highly prestigious nature of the award, this visa route is designed for international researchers who bring new ideas and perspectives, enriching the UK’s research and innovation workforce.

This visa route also enables the holder to be both adaptable and flexible during their research in the UK.

Find out more about the Global Talent visa.

The grant of any visa is always subject to the standard Home Office general grounds for refusal of a visa. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) can provide additional guidance about the evidence required to complete the visa application process under the Global Talent visa. Please contact for further details.


You can apply to subsequent fellowship rounds if you were previously unsuccessful, with the same, modified or a different fellowship application providing that you still meet the eligibility criteria. If you are resubmitting the same project, you should ensure that any feedback previously given by the committee has been addressed.

Unsuccessful research grant applications submitted to other schemes are not eligible to be resubmitted to the Discovery Fellowship scheme unless the work proposed is substantially different in terms of objectives or work to be carried out. Please see the BBSRC policy on resubmissions and revised submissions for further details.

Applicants for a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship are not permitted to simultaneously apply to UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships funding opportunity but are permitted to seek support for other projects, from specific research councils or other funders’ opportunities, while their BBSRC fellowship is under consideration.  Applications to UKRI research councils must fit within the specific remit of that council and BBSRC will not accept applications where the same work is currently undergoing peer review by another research council.

Part-time fellowships

Discovery Fellowships may be held full or part-time. BBSRC welcomes applications from candidates who wish to work on a part-time or flexible basis to combine their responsibilities with a career.

Discovery Fellowships can be held on a part-time basis down to 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE). In all cases, the length of the fellowship must be extended accordingly on a pro rata basis. For example, a 3-year fellowship on a full-time basis would equate to a 6-year fellowship with the fellow working 0.5 FTE, but the value of the award would remain the same.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI and BBSRC’s equality, diversity and inclusion action policy.

What we’re looking for


Through our Discovery Fellowships, BBSRC will invest in researchers who are seeking to conduct their own independent research within a host laboratory.

You must provide strong evidence of working towards this goal, demonstrating an upward trajectory to pursuing independent work within a host organisation. You must show high potential to become future research leaders.

This scheme supports excellent investigator-led research across the breadth of our scientific remit.

You can apply to undertake biotechnology or biological research in:

  • plants
  • microbes
  • animals and humans
  • tools and technology underpinning biological research

Investigations within and across scales are supported, from molecules and cells, to tissues, whole organisms, populations, and landscapes.

We welcome multidisciplinary applications that cross into other research council areas but expect the primary focus of your work to fall within BBSRC’s remit.

We work with other research councils to ensure that applications close to remit boundaries are assessed by the most appropriate lead council. Please contact with any queries about the suitability of your application before applying.

We have a strong commitment to funding curiosity-led research and advancing excellent bioscience across our portfolio.

You should continue to indicate how a proposal aligns to BBSRC’s research and innovation priorities, where relevant, and you are encouraged to consider the relevance of your proposed work in line with the long-term research and innovation priorities set out in BBSRC’s strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025.


Discovery Fellowship awards are for 3 years and must start by 1 July 2024.

You must ensure that your proposed start date is realistic, taking account of the period required to process the application.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £500,000. BBSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

What we will fund

Funding can be used to support:

  • personal salary
  • travel and subsistence
  • training activities
  • research consumables
  • technician support
  • visa costs if required

What we will not fund

Funding cannot be used to support:

  • researchers or research staff
  • purchasing of equipment (for example personal computers, laptops, other computing equipment cameras, or hiring of equipment)

Choice of institution

BBSRC places considerable weight in the awarding of fellowships on evidence that you have given full and careful consideration to the choice of institution. In all cases, the choice of institution should relate to the research environment and scientific infrastructure of the selected institution. There is therefore no expectation for you to move to a new institution provided the choice of institution is justified.

We expect host organisations to provide additional commitments to our fellows. The reviewers and committee are looking for evidence that the host organisation will contribute significant financial support, in-kind support, or both, if an award is made.

To demonstrate commitment to the support and development of Discovery Fellows, BBSRC requires the head of department to describe the package of support from the host organisation.

This should provide details of the support the organisation will be providing to the fellow in support of their fellowship in terms of:

  • financial support: state amount and duration
  • equipment (including provision of dedicated equipment or waiver of access charges)
  • consumables
  • facilities and lab space
  • staff time or support: state amount and duration
  • travel
  • training: give titles of specific courses
  • career development support
  • PhD students: state number and duration
  • any other support

BBSRC recognises that in some instances, this information may be provided by the research office, the technology transfer office (TTO) or equivalent, or a combination of both.

You must also include the following details:

  • a significant person’s name and their position, from the TTO or research office, or both
  • office address or web link

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.

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