Ten years of Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers

This year, we celebrate ten years since the launch of the Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers scheme.

The scheme supports research-active clinicians, dentists and vets to play a crucial role in pursuing scientific discovery as well as generating evidence for new treatments, alongside the delivery of front-line clinical care.

The Academy of Medical Sciences prioritised this scheme because it identified that while a Clinical Lecturer post offers personal salary and protected research time, it does not provide research costs or career support in managing the dual demands of service delivery and research. The Starter Grants scheme provides up to £30k towards research costs for up to two years. The awards help Clinical Lecturers to gather preliminary data to inform further larger-scale funding proposals. Awardees are also encouraged to take advantage of the Academy’s mentoring scheme and other career development activities. The overall aim of the scheme is to create a cadre of emerging future leaders, able to harness and further innovate research to transform patient treatment and care.

To date £12.4 million has been invested in supporting 438 Clinical Lecturers from across the UK to undertake diverse research projects. The scheme is demonstrating remarkable impact; awardees have generated new knowledge and utilised this to leverage £109.7m in follow-on funding. They have disseminated their findings through 1706 research articles, impacted on clinical care and influenced policy change, and 60% have secured promotions to cement research independence.

An added feature to the scheme is the funding consortium that underpins it. The Academy partnered with the Wellcome Trust to establish the scheme and currently the Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, Versus Arthritis, Diabetes UK and the British Thoracic Society (through the Helen and Andrew Douglas bequest) generously provide funding. The scheme demonstrates the power of the community coming together to make a strategic intervention.

The achievements of the awardees are cause for celebration. To mark this, today we are publishing our  ‘Starter for 10: a decade of supporting academic Clinical Lecturers’ report which sets out the successes and includes case studies drawn from the last decade, which can also be found on our case studies webpage.

We are delighted to share quotes from Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Professor Wiebke Arlt FMedSci, Chair of the Starter Grants scheme panel, and our funding consortium partners. 

Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, Academy President:

"There has never been a more exciting time in biomedical and clinical research. Aspiring researchers such as Clinical Lecturers are key to generating advancements in health research and realising the transformational potential on patient care. The Starter Grants scheme is proving to be successful in supporting Clinical Lecturers to achieve this."

Professor Wiebke Arlt FMedSci, Chair of Starter Grants scheme panel: 

"As one of the National Academies, we are committed to celebrating individuals and their achievements, and this is a perfect opportunity not only to reflect but to celebrate. As Chair, it has been a pleasure reviewing the received research proposals and I look forward to hearing about our awardees’ future successes."

Dr Sara Marshall, Head of Clinical Research, Wellcome Trust: 

"I am very pleased to celebrate 10 years of the partnership between Wellcome and the Academy of Medical Sciences. Starter Grants offer a unique opportunity to aspiring academic clinicians at a crucial stage in their research careers, and have played a major role in enabling them to consolidate their ideas before applying for more substantial fellowships . The personal accounts included in this report demonstrate the wide-ranging impact this scheme has had, not only in spearheading the research careers of a wide variety of academic clinicians, but also in improving patient outcomes and our understanding of disease."

Sir Nilesh Samani FMedSci, Medical Director, British Heart Foundation:

“We are pleased to have partnered with the Academy in the Clinical Starter Grants that provide vital support for clinical lecturers at a critical stage of their independent academic careers. We are delighted by the success of the scheme as demonstrated by Clinical Starter Grant holders going on to being awarded fellowships from the BHF or other funders, as well as achieving promotions to more senior academic roles and leveraging other funding to support their research.”

Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research, Versus Arthritis: 

"Versus Arthritis is delighted to have been a partner funder of the Academy’s Starter Grant scheme since 2012. The scheme is a fantastic way to support early career academic clinicians, allowing them to strengthen and build their research portfolio whilst completing their clinical training. The projects previously funded through this scheme have helped to stimulate clinical research in the field, supporting the future leaders in musculoskeletal research to continue the fight against arthritis." 

Professor Fiona Watt FRS FMedSci, Executive Chair, Medical Research Council: 

"The MRC is proud to be a partner in this vital scheme. The support it provides is critical to seeding future clinical research capacity, allowing early career clinical academics to explore important medical questions and consolidate skills while they progress their clinical training."

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research, Diabetes UK:

“We are very proud to be a partner of the Clinical Lecturer Starter Grants scheme as it is a fantastic way of building capacity and encouraging high quality research in the area of diabetes. Clinical scientists provide unique insights to research, developing important knowledge from the frontline of healthcare. While we celebrate the impact of the scheme to date, we’re also hopeful for the difference this new generation of scientists will make in the future, for people living with diabetes.”

Ms Sheila Edwards, CEO, British Thoracic Society:

“When the British Thoracic Society was left a significant bequest by Helen and Andrew Douglas to support future research into Tuberculosis control, Trustees weren’t sure initially how best to honour their memory and make best use of the funding.  After discussing options with the Academy of Medical Sciences we felt that a partnership with the Academy would bring added value to the awards and make available a range of support and mentoring to the successful recipients that we would not be able to guarantee otherwise.  As a result, the first of the new awards will be made in December 2018, and the society is confident that the Douglas Bequest will be honoured in full, and indeed beyond the donors’ expectations.”

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