David Sainsbury Fellowships

What is a David Sainsbury Fellowship?

David Sainsbury Fellowships support talented, 3Rs-minded scientists (with two to six years' postdoctoral experience) with the transition to an independent career. Applications from any area of medical, biological or veterinary research are within remit; those that integrate a range of disciplines or include an industrial partner are particularly encouraged. Funding for David Sainsbury Fellowships is non-FEC and applicants can apply for a commensurate salary (as agreed by the host research organisation) and up to £30k per annum for other directly incurred research costs. Awards are for a three year duration and there is one competition per year.

Please note: This scheme will not be running in 2019.

Panel meeting outcome reports and award rates for previous calls can be found here

Applicants should read the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook, which provides more detailed information about the application process. In addition, all prospective Fellowship applicants should consider assessing their competitiveness for the scheme against the NC3Rs Skills and Experience Framework before applying.

Key dates | Who can apply | How to apply | Assessment procedure | Related documents

Key dates

30 March 2017, 2pm David Sainsbury Fellowship Webinar (Slides now available)
24 April 2017, 4pm Deadline for submitting informal outline and CV 
3 May 2017 Application form available on Je-S
21 June 2017, 4pm Full application deadline on Je-S
November 2017 Fellowship Assessment Panel Shortlisting meeting
Mid-November 2017 Applicants informed of outcome
6 December 2017* Candidate group interview
Mid-December 2017 Shortlisted applicants informed of outcome
Any time after award letter issued Expected Fellowship start date
Within 12 months of award Last date for commencing projects

*All applicants should ensure that they are available for interview on this date prior to submitting an application.

Please sign up to the NC3Rs Newsletter for updates on funding schemes.

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Who can apply?

Establishment eligibility

Any UK research establishment including:

  • UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  • Independent Research Organisations (IROs)
  • Research Council (RC) Institutes

Industrial organisations may act as collaborators but are not eligible to be primary host Research Organisations.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to find a host Research Organisation that will act as their employer.

Individual eligibility

  • Applicants should be researchers with a minimum of two and a maximum of six years postdoctoral experience at the time of application.
  • There are no residency requirements and international applicants are eligible to apply, however, the host Research Organisation must ensure that all necessary work permits are in place prior to the fellowship starting.
  • Applicants are ineligible to apply if they already hold a permanent contract of employment at the host institution (e.g. lectureship position).
  • Applicants must identify a Sponsor at the host Research Organisation. If time will be spent outside the host Research Organisation, a Sponsor must also be identified at the collaborating institute.
  • If an NC3Rs grant holder has more than 12 months remaining on their NC3Rs grant, at the time of application, they are not permitted to apply as a Primary Investigator for further NC3Rs funding (excluding CRACK IT and Strategic Awards – please contact the Office to discuss)

Additional considerations

Applicants should assess their career stage and suitability for the scheme against the NC3Rs Skills and Experience Framework. This framework is intended to provide general guidance and clarity on the types of skills and competencies that potential applicants should seek to demonstrate at each career stage, taking into account career breaks, part-time working, and changes in discipline.

Applicants with more than six years' postdoctoral experience who have had a career break due to personal reasons or work outside of active research should contact fellowships@nc3rs.org.uk to check their eligibility.


The NC3Rs does not allow resubmission of previously unsuccessful proposals, unless explicitly invited by the Panel. Proposals previously declined by the NC3Rs will not be considered by another Research Council or funder within 12 months (from the date of submission to the original Research Council) unless substantially revised. More information can be found in the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook.

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How to apply

Applicants are advised to read and refer to the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook, which contains more detailed information on submitting both an outline and full application. Applicants should also take note of the 'Considerations at informal outline stage' and 'Fellowship panel scoring criteria' when compiling an application.

Outlines and full applications received after 4pm on the deadline date will not be considered, without exception.

Applicants submitting under the highlight notice, should note this within their outline form and, if invited, the ‘Objectives’ and the ‘Case for Support’ sections of their full applications.


We hosted a Webinar on 30 March 2017 to provide applicants with further information and guidance on the scheme and application process.  

Prospective applicants are welcome to view the webinar slides and contact the office for further information.

Outline stage

Before submitting a full application, applicants are required to complete an outline of the research proposal.

A CV, of no more than three sides of A4, is also required and should include:

  • Award date of PhD (date on degree certificate)
  • Employment history
  • Full list of publications (including those submitted or in press)

Please email completed outlines and CVs to fellowships@nc3rs.org.uk

Submitting a full application

We use the Research Councils' joint electronic submission system (Je-S) and applications are processed by the RCUK Shared Business Services. Completed proposals must be submitted through Je-S.

If you experience difficulties using Je-S or have questions regarding its use, contact the Je-S helpdesk.

Email: jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org      Phone: +44 (0) 1793 44 4164

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Assessment procedure

Proposals are assessed in a two stage process by the David Sainsbury Fellowship Assessment Panel.

Stage one:

Applications are evaluated by international peer review and assessed by the Panel which shortlists applicants for interview.

Applicants are notified of the shortlisting meeting outcomes three weeks before the interview date. Referees' comments are provided to unsuccessful applicants at this stage.

Stage two:

This stage consists of three parts:

  1. Presentation: outlining the research and  3Rs impact proposed in your application.
  2. Group activity: undertaken in small groups and assessed by a subset of the Panel.
  3. Individual interviews: conducted by a subset of the Panel.

During both stages of the assessment, the following criteria are taken into consideration by the Panel:

  • Competitiveness, potential, and track record of the applicant including publication history
  • Scientific independence of the applicant as measured against the NC3Rs Skills and Experience Framework
  • 3Rs acumen of the applicant
  • Potential 3Rs impact of the proposed project
  • Scientific quality of the proposed project
  • Expertise and track record of the sponsors
  • Suitability of the research environment
  • Strategic relevance to the highlight notice (where appropriate)

Shortlisted applicants receive referees' comments along with their decision letter after the second assessment stage.

In order to maintain transparency and integrity of the peer review process we have adopted the MRC policy on peer review. Please note the Referee and Panel assessment guidance and scoring criteria below.

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Related documents

Application process

Assessment criteria

NC3Rs blogs

Useful information

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