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Three Oxford academics have today been awarded major financial backing with UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships – for their ‘world-class research and innovation’ into space flight, high risk pregnancy and finding answers to chaotic public out-sourcing.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway announced some 100 new Fellows, who will share in £109 million funding, with individual researchers receiving up to £1.5 million. Oxford’s three delighted winners are: Dr Eleanor Carter, Dr Tobias Hermann and Dr Jane Hirst.

Dr Carter of the Blavatnik School of Government will be investigating the critical issue of how government can better manage public services outsourcing.  Currently acting research director of the Government Outcomes Lab, Dr Carter says, ‘I am thrilled...My Fellowship will bring diligent and original research to help avert further public contracting fiascos and boost the quality of services experienced by some of the most disadvantaged members of society.’

Oxford’s three winners are: Dr Eleanor Carter, Dr Tobias Hermann and Dr Jane Hirst

Dr Hermann, Senior Research Associate in Hypersonics at the Oxford Thermofluids Institute, was among a small number of researchers whose work was highlighted by UKRI. He aims to ensure that future spacecraft are able to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere safely despite being exposed to extreme heat. Dr Hermann says, ‘The UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship is a gigantic step for me personally and a milestone in my career. It enables me to follow through on a hugely ambitious project.’

He adds, ‘The long-term focus of the project is to build a platform for exciting future research in hypersonics. Within this fellowship, I am planning to build a new type of experimental facility that improves how we can replicate the environment faced by a re-entering spacecraft when it travels through the atmosphere. This will unlock previously unavailable data to help us improve the heat shields of re-entry capsules. This in turn will allow an expansion of the domain of our solar system we can explore through space return missions.’

 UKRI’s initiative aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines

Dr Hirst of the Nuffield Department of Womens & Reproductive Health, leads global research into gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), preterm birth and stillbirth. Speaking about the award, Dr Hirst says, ‘I am honoured to receive this UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. The Fellowship will support me leading a world class program of research that aims to transform care for women after high risk pregnancy around the world to improve lifelong health and wellbeing.I will be working with partners in India, Australia and the UK testing practical solutions to integrate non-communicable disease prevention into pregnancy and post-partum care worldwide. The work builds upon the SMART Health Pregnancy program (The George Institute for Global Health, India, and George Health Enterprises, UK), and GDmHealth (Sensyne Health, UK).’

The new fellows, all based at UK universities and businesses, will be supported through an investment of £109 million. UKRI’s initiative aims to support the creation of a new cohort of research and innovation leaders who will have links across different sectors and disciplines.  Awardees will each receive between £400,000 and £1.5 million over an initial four years.

UKRI is a non-departmental public body of the Government which directs research and innovation funding, funded through the science budget of the Science Budget by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).