Discovery Programme Awards

About this scheme

Key information

Career level
Established independent researcher
Non-clinical researcher
Research area
Biomarker research
Pre-clinical research
Radiotherapy research
Imaging research
Cancer biology
Preliminary submission
Final submission
Committee review
Funding period
Up to 5 years
Funding amount
Up to £2.5 million
Programme Awards provide long-term support for broad, multidisciplinary research where the aim is to answer an interrelated set of questions.

Applications are accepted from scientists, clinicians or health care workers in UK universities, medical schools, hospitals and some research institutions.

Applications will be considered in the following areas:

  • Basic biological research: Any area of basic biological research relating to cancer. Studies may include the use of model systems (e.g. yeast, worm, fly, zebrafish, mouse), cell lines (animal or human) or primary tumour material
  • Preclinical studies: Research that will generate biological data to underpin therapeutic development
  • Biomarkers
  • Imaging
  • Radiotherapy research
  • The application of engineering and physical sciences to cancer

As part of CRUK’s longstanding strategic partnership with the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), there is an opportunity for any successful applications with relevant research components in engineering and physical sciences to be jointly supported by both CRUK and the EPSRC. Applicants considering submitting a proposal with a significant multidisciplinary component are encouraged to discuss their application with the Office.

For more specific details of research supported by Discovery Research Committee Programme Awards, refer to the scheme guidelines.

Funding support is provided for:

  • Salaries for researchers and technical staff
  • PhD Students (stipend, fees and running expenses)
  • Running expenses
  • Equipment

How to apply to this scheme

​Overview of the application process

Applications for Programme Awards are considered twice a year and follow a two-stage process:

  1. Outline application: You'll need to submit an outline application which the Discovery Research Committee will use to decide whether to invite you to submit a full application to a subsequent meeting. We advise you to contact the office at least two months prior to the submission deadline to discuss the process and be given access to an online application form. 
  2. Full application: If you're invited to submit a full application, you can do so straightaway or wait until the next funding call. You'll be invited to an interview with an Expert Review Panel who will make funding recommendations to the Discovery Research Committee.​



Outline Application Deadline     Committee Shortlisting
26 September 2024 November 2024
2 April 2025 June 2025



Full Application Deadline           Committee Review   
9 January 2025 June 2025
25 June 2025 November 2025

If your outline application is approved by the Committee, you may apply in full by either of the next two full application deadlines.

Before you begin your application

1. Please ensure you read the following documents: 

2. You must contact the office to discuss your eligibility and suitability of your research proposal

The Discovery Research Committee will judge your proposal based on:

  • Scientific excellence: all applications must have a strong scientific rationale, as well as appropriate experimental design and statistical analyses, to support the proposed research proposal.
  • Cancer relevance: value of the proposed work in advancing the fundamental understanding of cancer or improving how cancer is diagnosed and/or treated.
  • Track record: the lead applicant and/or team members should have an excellent track record and potential to produce outstanding results.
  •  Excellent team and collaborative environment: suitability and feasibility of the Lead Applicant(s) (and supporting roles) to carry out the proposed research with access to the resources and facilities required for the successful fulfilment of the Programme Award. The added value of the proposed collaboration and the individual contributions, as well as the steps taken to ensure an effective collaboration.
  • Resources requested: the costs requested in an application should be for the direct costs of the research and be reasonably justified in line with the experimental plans, leveraging existing resources where appropriate. 

The Committee will also consider how your proposed research aligns with our strategic priorities, as set out in our Discovery Research Statement of Intent and our broader Research Strategy.

The 5 year rolling success rate (financial year 2017-2022) from application to funding for this scheme is 35%.


Applications are assessed by an Expert Review Panel. Final funding decisions are made by the Discovery Research Committee.

Cancer Research UK contact details

​You must contact a funding manager for this scheme to discuss you proposal before starting your application.

Applications from the South of England, Wales and London (excl. UCL) 

Divneet Kaur PhD - Research Grants Manager

Tel: 020 3469 8655


Applications from Cambridge, Oxford and UCL

Aleksandra Dabrowksa PhD - Research Grants Manager

Tel: 020 3469 5278


Applications from Scotland, Northern Ireland, North of England and Midlands

Sowmiya Palani PhD - Research Grants Manager

Tel: 020 3469 5231


More opportunities for discovery researchers

Discovery Research

We support a broad portfolio of discovery research, including basic biology, genetics and immunology, biomarker discovery and preclinical studies, and engineering and physical sciences applied to cancer. We have a variety of grant funding and other opportunities to accelerate your research.

Disability and accessibility support

We offer additional support for grant applicants and grant holders who are disabled or have a long-term health condition. 

Environmental sustainability in research

Researchers applying to our funding schemes from 2026 will be required to demonstrate the environmental sustainability of their laboratories by obtaining green lab certification.

Case study

Microscopic photo of a cell

Dr Phil Jones is developing powerful model systems that will help transform our understanding of the earliest steps in the evolution of oesophageal cancer.

Research events

Our Strategy and Research Funding teams attend and exhibit at conferences, meetings and workshops throughout the year.