Skills & careers

Skills Development Fellowships

Purpose of scheme

Skills Development Fellowships are training fellowships that will support capacity building in MRC priority areas by:

  • Supporting very early career researchers to explore, consolidate and further develop their skills in a priority area in which they are already active or in which they are seeking training.
  • Supporting researchers at all career stages who wish to transform their career by developing new skills in a priority area.

Applicants should demonstrate that they are at the relevant career stage (consolidation and exploration) and must include a coherent, integrated programme of training in their proposal.  Applications are welcome from individuals with a biomedical background wishing to develop priority skills, or from individuals with a background in the priority skills areas, wishing to learn biomedical research skills and context.

The scheme currently invites proposals that focus on any of the following priority areas within a UK and/or global health context. These priority areas are not mutually exclusive and applicants are welcome to incorporate either or both in their proposals.

  • Quantitative Skills: covering mathematics, statistics, computation and informatics applicable to any biomedical or health related data sources, from molecular to population level. These skills can be applied across the full range of the MRC’s remit, for example, cell biology, physiology, epidemiology, population and public health, and health psychology. 
  • Skills at the social science interface: with a focus on areas of health economics and/or mixed methods research.

Applicants from a quantitative, economics or social sciences research background should be seeking to develop new expertise and skills by applying these methods to biomedical and/or health research across MRC’s remit, including the development of novel methods in these areas if needed for the application. All applicants should be seeking to acquire (further) training in quantitative, economics or social science research methods as applied to biomedical and/or health research.


The fellowship provides three years’ support. Applicants may request up to four years’ support where the project and training require more than three years and the need for the additional time is fully justified in the application.

Joint funding

The MRC is collaborating with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to offer jointly funded Skills Development Fellowships. These awards offer the prestige of having both MRC and ESRC co-fund your fellowship and may offer additional opportunities to report on your project, present your work at meetings and for professional networking. The MRC and ESRC will collaborate to jointly assess and fund eligible interdisciplinary applications under an extension of the cross-council funding agreement.

All applications are considered 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. Any jointly funded fellowships will be offered at the same funding level as any other award and under standard MRC terms and conditions.

To apply for joint funding, applicants should include the Joint funding form as part of their cover letter.  


Applicants should normally hold a PhD (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline or expect to do so by the time they take up the award. Applicants should explain their career aspirations and how the fellowship will enable these. All proposals must include clear plans for training and development of new expertise and skills in the priority areas described above (further details below), along with an explanation of how such skills relate to the objectives of the proposed research project and, crucially, to the applicant’s long-term career aspirations. To be considered suitable for the scheme;

  • Early career researchers working in a priority area should be able to clearly demonstrate that their skills and experience match those of the early career stage in the applicant skills and experience table and should be seeking new or further training in one of the named priority areas.
  • Researchers who are at a later career stage can apply for a Skills Development Fellowship if they wish to return to the consolidation and exploration stage of their career to develop new skills in a priority area. Individuals should not already have an established track record in this area and their proposals should focus on the acquisition of new research skills and expertise in a priority area, typically embedded within a substantive biomedical or population health research project. This applies to individuals moving in either direction, e.g. those with a quantitative/social science background wishing to learn biomedical research skills, or individuals with a biomedical background wishing to learn quantitative/social science skills.
  • All applicants must clearly explain why a fellowship is the best way to support their long term career goals and chosen career route. Applicants wishing to retain an existing position and combine this with research funding are not suitable for a fellowship and should consider funding options under one of the grant schemes.
  • Applicants with a track record in any priority area who are seeking to develop their independence within the same field should consider funding schemes that support an individual’s transition to independence.

Training and development plans

A programme of skills training and development is an essential requirement for this scheme and must be included in the case for support form, either as a separate section, or integrated into the project description. This should clearly describe the new skills to be attained during the course of the fellowship, and how this will be achieved. For example, details should be provided of how any taught courses, local collaborations, or visits will help the applicant to acquire new skills and techniques.

Funding provided

The fellowship provides full personal salary costs, with support for skills training, consumables, travel costs and capital equipment appropriate for the research project. Research staff fees are not normally allowed within this scheme, unless approved exceptionally by the MRC office prior to submission.

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) - see RCUK grant terms and conditions. There is no limit to the funding that can be requested under the scheme, but requests should be appropriate for the required skills training and project, and sufficiently justified in terms of delivering the overall 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-rata for part-time fellows) on other commitments (for example, teaching, demonstrating, and other funded projects) or may undertake up to two clinical sessions a week.

Greater flexibility on the time dedicated to non-fellowship activities (for example, 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 or additional clinical sessions should contact 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. More information on these opportunities is available.

Deadlines and submission details

The Skills Development Fellowships competition is held once a year. Application deadline dates can be found on the deadlines page.

When preparing an application the following documents should be carefully consulted, as applications that differ from the requested format may be rejected without review: 

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 prior to applying. If you still need further guidance you may contact the relevant Programme Manager via to confirm your suitability for any MRC fellowship scheme. To enable us to advise, you must include your CV (using the correct CV template (DOCX, 30KB), a one page project outline and a list of publications and/or other relevant outputs with your enquiry.

Information about how to apply for the call can be found below: