The following advice is based on the outcomes from the Round 7 internal selection process.
There were certain points which reviewers and panellists mentioned repeatedly as areas of improvement. The strongest candidates covered all of these areas and were able to create a sense of a coherent programme of work which would allow them a unique opportunity to develop as a research leader.
UKRI’s guidance heavily emphasises the importance of demonstrating ‘added value’. Stronger applications were able to articulate why they wanted to apply for an FLF rather than other schemes, and clearly outlined the unique opportunities for both research and professional development.
Weaker applications were unable to explain why they wanted to apply for FLF specifically.
- Applicant and development
The strongest candidates demonstrated not just a strong track record, but a commitment to future development, and were able to articulate what the FLF would offer them in this respect. As one reviewer noted, “How will this not only produce research, but produce (you as) a research and innovation leader?”
If the proposal involved a wider team, the proposal needed to demonstrate that they had thought about their development, too.
- Ambition and scope of the proposal
An FLF proposal is potentially 7 years of research and impact work. Reviewers felt that some projects were too narrow and not ambitious enough for the scheme, and so would be better suited to other schemes.
The strongest applications were able to articulate not just what the impact could be, but how it could be achieved. In other words, what are the pathways to impact?
- Departmental/School support
Research environment at the host organisation is one of UKRI’s four assessment criteria. With this in mind, HoD statements of support need to be strong, and Departments/Schools need to consider what concrete opportunities they can offer FLF applicants beyond the usual offers. All Universities will offer space to work, a laptop, the opportunity to apply for internal funding, and so on. Can the Department offer anything else, to bolster the proposed research and demonstrate the Department's commitment to the applicant? Departments can, for example, consider offering things like PhD studentships (which can’t be funded directly through FLF) to be linked to the FLF programme of work.