Two researchers at the University of Bath are named among the UK’s most promising science and research leaders, securing Future Leader Fellowships from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced on Wednesday 8 September by Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

97 researchers in total are receiving funding of £113 million, to help bring their innovative ideas from lab to market and provide bold solutions to tackle major global issues ranging from climate change to chronic disease.

The Future Leaders Fellowships scheme aims to establish the careers of the next generation of world-class scientists in the UK – enabling researchers at universities and businesses to progress their studies quickly by funding research expenses, paying for researcher wages and supporting the researcher’s team.

Dr Vivek Soundararajan, from the University’s School of Management, will lead a project to put workplace dignity at the heart of a new framework for sustainable supply chain management. Overwork, bullying, abuse, humiliation and poor conditions, is a collective experience for millions of workers in UK companies’ global and domestic supply chains. Current mechanisms for addressing them rely on ‘one-size-fits-all’ labour standards and human rights conventions, without taking into account the highly personal experience of workplace dignity.

To counter this, the project will use novel research techniques, including interviews, drawings, surveys and field experiments to understand and develop interventions for improving workplace dignity in supply chains. The research will take place across two sectors: Information Technology products and services and Textile and garments, in the UK and in India.

“Besides the devastating impact on the lives of workers in supply chains, violation of workplace dignity has serious and direct implications for UK companies’ productivity,” said Dr Soundararajan. “It can cause significant negative impacts on workers’ commitment, health and wellbeing with a consequent decrease in supplier performance. So, this ambitious project will not only improve the lives of vulnerable workers, but help to address the productivity challenges facing the economy.

"For me personally it’s a very exciting opportunity to develop a skill set, network and team that I hope in time will help to put me at the forefront of sustainable supply chain management.”

Dr Daniel Loughran, from the University’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, will use tools from geometry and number theory to tackle important open problems in the field of Diophantine equations. Originally viewed as a curiosity from antiquity, these equations have found spectacular applications to modern society and underlie much of internet security.

Dr Loughran said: “I'm honoured to be awarded the Future Leaders Fellowship; it feels a bit like winning the lottery! The fellowship will allow me to realise my ambitious research programme and full potential as a leader, and create a new world-leading centre for number theory.”

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships support talented people in universities, businesses, and other research and innovation environments. They also allow universities and businesses to develop their most talented early career researchers and innovators or to attract new people to their organisations. The aim of the scheme is to develop the next wave of world-class research and innovation leaders in academia and business. Each fellowship lasts four to seven years.

“I am delighted that UKRI is able to support the next generation of research and innovation leaders through our Future Leaders Fellowship programme,” said UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser. “The new Fellows announced today will have the support and freedom they need to pursue their research and innovation ideas, delivering new knowledge and understanding and tackling some of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Professor Davide Mattia, Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) said: "On behalf of the University and its research community I wholeheartedly congratulate our two new Future Leader Fellows, Dr Vivek Soundararajan and Dr Daniel Loughran. This was a highly competitive application process which brings significant funding to the University to address important societal issues and we are immensely proud of their achievement and look forward to seeing their projects underway."

The projects backed by UKRI are described as an important part of the government’s ambition to cement the UK’s status as a global leader in science, research and innovation, set out through the publication of the Innovation Strategy in July.

The funding forms part of the government’s commitment to increase public spending in R&D by £22 billion by 2024 to 2025, putting the UK on track to reach 2.4% of GDP being spent on R&D across the UK economy by 2027.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Supported by £113m, the Future Leaders Fellowships will equip our most inventive scientists and researchers across the country with the tools to develop and bring their innovations to market quickly - all while helping to secure the UK’s status as a global science superpower.”