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Geographer awarded Future Leaders Fellowship by UK Research and Innovation

Geographer awarded Future Leaders Fellowship by UK Research and Innovation

  • Date17 June 2022

An academic from Royal Holloway, University of London, has been awarded a Future Leaders Fellowship by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), as part of the next generation of research leaders tackling global issues and commercialise innovations.


Eighty-four of the most promising science and research leaders will benefit from £97.8 million to tackle major global issues and to commercialise their innovations in the UK, Science Minister George Freeman has announced.

Fellows developing a fleet of asteroid-tracking mini satellites and permeable pavements to mitigate against flooding are among the cutting-edge projects funded by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship Future Leaders Fellowships programme.

Other projects supported include mid-air haptics that allow you to feel holographs, injectable gels to deliver tissue regeneration therapies, and improved models of the global ocean carbon cycle.

Their research will tackle global issues ranging from climate change to the exploitation of women in global garment supply chains and it will help bring researchers’ innovative ideas from lab to market.

Innovators for the future

Among the future scientific leaders announced is Dr Celia Puertas from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, who will lead ‘Rethinking Palaeoclimatology for Society’, which will focus on putting a new initiative into practice to facilitate policy impact in palaeoclimatology - the study of past climate.

In her project, scientists and stakeholders will work in a synergy to develop research questions, produce research, and communicate effectively to contribute to the policymaking system and to get a better understanding of decadal climate variability and extreme weather events such as floods and heat waves.

Celia and her team will combine proxy-based research and climate modelling to create a brand-new dataset of annual, quantitative, and regional palaeoweather observations that will help improve decadal prediction models.  

Her project is co-designed and co-developed with key partners including the World Meteorological Organisation, Met Office, Defra, UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Royal Society.

Dr Celia Puertas from the Department of Geography said: “I hope to develop a co-production between palaeoclimatologists, climate modellers and policy makers with substantial benefit to society.  The creation of a Centre for Palaeoclimate for Policy will be the legacy of what my fellowship might mean to both the next generation of palaeoclimatologists and the future interface of science and policy.”

Pursuing new research and innovation ideas

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:

“The Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with the freedom and generous long-term support to progress adventurous new ideas, and to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry.

“The fellows announced today provide shining examples of the talented researchers and innovators across every discipline attracted to pursue their ideas in universities and businesses throughout the UK, with the potential to deliver transformative research that can be felt across society and the economy.”

£100m new support for further Fellowships  

Building on the success of the £900 million invested in the first six rounds of Future Leaders Fellowship, UKRI has additionally committed £100 million for a seventh round.

The scheme helps universities and businesses in the UK recruit, develop and retain the world’s best researchers and innovators, regardless of their background. Researchers can apply for substantial long-term funding to support their research or innovation and develop their careers, with each fellowship will last four to seven years.

The projects will be an important part of the government’s ambition to cement the UK’s status as a global leader in science, research and innovation.

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