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Leverhulme Trust invests £30 million in new UK Research Centres 

The Leverhulme Trust Board has announced the three winners of its 2021 Leverhulme Research Centre awards. Each Centre, to be led by a named Director, will be funded for up to £10 million over 10 years, to support fundamental cross-disciplinary research.

The competition was designed to encourage original research which would establish or reshape a significant field of study and transform our understanding of an important topic in contemporary societies. The Trust encourages research which is fundamental or curiosity-driven, multi-disciplinary, and often higher risk. Applicants were therefore invited to be bold in compiling their bids. In line with the Trust’s responsive mode of operation the choice of research topic was left deliberately open. The quality of the bids was exceptionally high and the task of selecting these three was correspondingly challenging. The new research centres are detailed below. 

Professor Anna Vignoles, Director of the Trust, said:

‘Leverhulme Trust Research Centres will, as they say, shift the needle on a particular topic. These centres are bold, interdisciplinary and embrace novel approaches that will reshape or establish a field. The round was extremely competitive and the Trust Board is delighted to announce it will be funding three new centres that are tackling vitally important issues relating to environmental sustainability and seeking answers to questions that humans have long asked but not had the means to answer, such as is there life elsewhere in the universe.’

The three new research centres are: 

Leverhulme Centre for the Holobiont

Professor Thomas Bell, Imperial College London
There is growing recognition that microbes are essential for life, including providing protection against disease, and that multicellular organisms should be thought of as whole systems (holobionts) rather than individual entities. This Centre will study how holobiont relationships vary across the Tree of Life and how those relationships can be manipulated and used to create a sustainable Green Revolution in agriculture, rescue threatened species and restore degraded habitats. The Centre will be led by Professor Thomas Bell at Imperial College London, with a range of partners including the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Natural History Museum, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the Rosalind Franklin Institute.
Read more about the Centre for the Holobiont.

Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery 

Professor Yadvinder Malhi, University of Oxford
Addressing the ecological, social, cultural and economic dimensions of nature recovery in a single framework, this Centre will undertake research that can help us halt and indeed reverse the ongoing loss and degradation of nature and its biodiversity. It will harness state-of-the-art technologies designed to deliver nature recovery at scale and to enable us to monitor progress towards this recovery. Led by Professor Yadvinder Malhi at the University of Oxford, it will focus on case studies in the UK and the Global South, working with a range of national and international partners in Ghana, Malaysia, Peru and Bangladesh.
Read more about the Centre for Nature Recovery.

Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe 

Professor Didier Queloz, University of Cambridge
Seeking to harness simultaneous breakthroughs in astrophysics, planetology, organic chemistry, biology and cognate disciplines, this Centre will tackle one of the great interdisciplinary challenges of our time, namely to understand how life emerged on Earth, whether the Universe is full of life, and indeed to ask what is the nature of life. It will be led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Didier Queloz at the University of Cambridge, in partnership with ETH- Zürich.
Read more about the Centre for Life in the Universe.

For more information contact: 

Professor Anna Vignoles, Director, Leverhulme Trust
+44(0)20 7042 9876 
Ms Bahia Dawlatly, Communications Officer, Leverhulme Trust
+44(0)20 7042 9875


  1. Imperial College London is one of the world’s leading universities. The College’s 20,000 students and 8,000 staff are working to solve the biggest challenges in science, medicine, engineering and business.
    Imperial is University of the Year 2022 in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is the world’s fifth most international university, according to Times Higher Education, with academic ties to more than 150 countries. Reuters named the College as the UK’s most innovative university because of its exceptional entrepreneurial culture and ties to industry. 
    Imperial staff, students and alumni are working round-the-clock to combat COVID-19. Imperial is at the forefront of coronavirus epidemiology, virology, vaccine development and diagnostics. 
  2. The University of Oxford is globally renowned for research excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Through our work we aim to improve the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of our research sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions. Through its research commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation, Oxford is the highest university patent filer in the UK and is ranked first in the UK for university spinouts, having created more than 170 new companies since 1988. Over a third of these companies have been created in the past three years.
  3. The University of Cambridge is one of the world’s top universities, with a rich history of radical thinking dating back to 1209. Its mission is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. The University comprises 31 autonomous Colleges and 150 departments, faculties and institutions. Its 24,450 student body includes more than 9,000 international students from 147 countries. The University sits at the heart of the ‘Cambridge cluster’, in which more than 5,300 knowledge-intensive firms employ more than 67,000 people and generate £18 billion in turnover. Cambridge has the highest number of patent applications per 100,000 residents in the UK.
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