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Promising Scottish scientists awarded £16.5 million UK Government funding



Pioneering researchers in Scotland are to get a £16.5m cash boost from the UK Government to convert their innovative ideas to transformational products and services.

The investment, delivered through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowships scheme, will enable the most promising scientists and researchers in Scotland and across the UK to fund equipment and researcher wages.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “Scottish scientists have long been pioneers of innovation and this investment will encourage a new generation of trailblazers to keep that tradition going.”

The next generation of UK science leaders in Scotland being backed today include Dr Bethany Mills from the University of Edinburgh, who will lead a project to research corneal ulcers, a major cause of blindness that affects around two million people in India alone and millions more in other countries.

Her project will analyse tears to map the bacteria and fungi that cause corneal ulcers. Using this information, she aims to develop treatments, taking account of local resources and ensuring patient engagement.

Other projects in Scotland announced today include:

  • Dr Obinna Ubah at Elasmogen, who will lead a project to deliver a new type of therapy that overcomes the limitations of traditional antibody therapies currently used to treat autoimmune diseases, like arthritis and Crohn’s disease. Unlike antibody therapies, the new drugs developed by Dr Ubah will be capable of being used to treat more than one kind of disease, will not require an injection, and will not themselves trigger an adverse immune response.
  • Dr Emily Draper from the University of Glasgow will lead a project to develop environmentally friendly organic materials to replace environmentally damaging and expensive metals in everyday smart devices, such as tablets and smartphones.
  • Dr Christopher Moxon from the University of Glasgow will lead a project to identify treatment targets to improve outcomes in cerebral malaria, with findings that may also be generalisable to other conditions. Researchers will do this by investigating the causes of blood barrier breakdown in such cases.
  • Dr Lynne Falconer from of the University of Stirling will lead a project into marine aquaculture, including fish farming, to respond to the impact of climate change, using data from salmon farms along Scotland and Norway’s coasts to develop a framework of tools for industry to enable better decision making.

UKRI chief executive Dame Ottoline Leyser said: “The new Fellows announced today will have the support and freedom they need to pursue their research and innovation ideas, delivering new knowledge and understanding and tackling some of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Westminster has committed over £900m to its Future Leader Fellowship initiative over three years.

Today’s funding forms part of the UK Government’s commitment to increase public spending in research and development by £22bn by 2025.

The other Future Leaders Fellowships from Scotland are:

  • Simulating the impact of first responder communication strategies on citizen compliance in emergencies, Dr Anne Templeton from the University of Edinburgh.
  • Soil-mycelia systems for slope stabilisation, Dr Grainne El Mountassir from the University of Strathclyde.
  • Logic in semantic universals, Dr Wataru Uegaki at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Earmarked funding and the effectiveness of international development organisations (EF-IO), Dr Bernhard Reinsberg from the University of Glasgow.
  • Nitrogen under extreme conditions, Dr Dominique Laniel at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Assessing the physiological relevance and molecular mechanisms of non-canonical ubiquitylation, Dr Virginia De Cesare from the University of Dundee.
  • Self-sustaining cell-free systems, Dr Nadanai Laohakunakorn at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Development of barocaloric materials for next generation refrigerants, Dr Claire Hobday at the University of Edinburgh.

The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme lets universities apply for up to £1.5m to support the research and innovation leaders of the future.

Each fellowship will last four to seven years. Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5m over an initial four years.

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