Four university experts among recipients of £109 million ‘future leaders’ fund

Four experts from The University of Manchester have received Future Leaders Fellowships from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and will share part of a £109 million funding pot to help their research into tackling major challenges ranging from cardiac disease treatment to energy efficiency.

The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme is designed to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across the country. It helps universities and businesses to recruit, develop and retain the world’s best researchers and innovators, and is intended to keep the UK at the cutting edge of innovation. Each fellowship lasts from four to seven years.

The new fellows include:

- Dr Matthew Birket, for his research into cardiac cell development. Heart disease kills more people than any other illness, and 7 million people live with it in the UK. While survival rates from cardiovascular events have been improving, therapeutic options are very limited for many patients, and there are gaps in existing research. His research will benefit future applications in regenerative medicine, cardiac disease modelling, biomarker identification and drug screening, thereby improving health outcomes in the UK and beyond.

- Dr Sarah Louise Lovelock, for her research into a new class of drug molecules called therapeutic oligonucleotides - these offer a new versatile approach for the treatment of a wide range of genetic disorders and viral infections, including those previously deemed undruggable. She will look to develop a green and cost-efficient way to manufacture these molecules on a large scale, which will make treatments available to the global population and significantly improve people's quality of life.

- Dr Jonathan Skelton, for his research into thermoelectric materials, which improve energy efficiency by recovering waste heat as electricity. More than 60% of the energy used worldwide is currently wasted as heat, creating vast quantities of unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. His research will develop the modelling tools needed for more complete understanding and control of heat transport in materials – this will provide timely solutions to a critical worldwide problem, and could eventually yield more efficient solar cells, better thermal management in batteries and improved power electronics and silicon chips, among others.

- Dr Sarah Hall, for her research into the effects of austerity on young people’s lives across Europe since 2008 – this will develop new insights into how austerity has impacted on young people's future life-course biographies, and will develop policy recommendations for embedding life-course and the 'social life of policy' approaches within regional policymaking It will also lead to the creation of a European research and policy network focused on young people's life-course biographies and austerity, which will bring together academics, practitioners and policymakers.

I am so excited to receive this award, to lead on this timely and necessary research and to work with a fantastic array of partners and collaborators. Austerity has significantly reshaped the life-courses of many young people across Europe and remains a pertinent issue following the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. I am looking forward to using this award as a platform to highlight these experiences, shape regional and national policy and develop an international network of scholars, campaigners and practitioners.
Dr Sarah Hall

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