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DALL·E 2023-10-30 13.44.53 - Illustration of a scientific research lab with a muted vaporw

Lovelace Future Scientific Institutions Essay Prize

3-5 prizes of £1500 each for essays outlining a vision of a new scientific institution

Ada Lovelace dreamt that science could unlock a better world; a creative venture at odds with the often cold and calculating image of today’s research. Her most famous vision saw computers transcending mere arithmetic, foreseeing by a century the computing revolution and our technological society. She also dreamt of a world of human flight, of influencing the mind-body relationship, of enhancing thought itself.


We need such creative visions today, and vehicles to birth them. Whilst our existing science and technology ecosystem has many strengths, it also has major limitations that governments and philanthropists could tackle together to build a better future. In the UK, publicly funded research is largely conducted in a principal investigator centric, hierarchical, academic department model. There is a great deal of potential not being sufficiently realised by this approach, and harnessing this potential could be a major driver of progress.

The Better Science Project are working on a new report in the New National Purpose series together with the Tony Blair Institute. Prior reports in this series laid out a bold agenda for reimagining the state to make science and technology a core driver of human progress [report 1], and approaching Artificial Intelligence [report 2]. Both received wide media coverage including on the front page of the Times.


This new report will explore how the UK could become a world leader in creating a 21st century scientific ecosystem, with greater diversity of approach – able to tackle challenges and opportunities that current institutional structures struggle to exploit. It will consider what such entities should look like structurally, what their inspirations should be, and how funding could be secured.


We are interested in how a network of novel physical institutions could be leveraged to create or advance new fields of science and technology over a 15-20 year time horizon, with the potential to transform our world. This style of ‘vision-oriented’ funding – bringing together diverse skills to work collaboratively on emerging opportunities – is poorly served by the existing system. 


As part of this report, we are looking to publish several real examples of visions for areas of science and technology that could be accelerated by new physical institutes. For this, we want to leverage the wider community’s ideas and input, as well as give a voice to new ideas that might not usually be listened to by funders and by the government. 

To help achieve this, Better Science are establishing an essay prize of £1500 each for between three and five essays that each provide an example of such an area, and a brief proposal for a novel institution. The essay should answer the following question:

“If you were given enough resources to build a new institute of 30-300 researchers funded over at least 15 years, what vision would you pursue, and why? What about this institute would be globally distinctive?”


Essays should propose a focus for a research institution that:

  • Cannot be well served by the private sector as a for-profit company.

  • Is based on an area of sufficient scope and nascency that it would require at least 10-15 years of funded research, with between roughly 30 and 300 researchers.

  • Would not be best suited to a standard, principal investigator-centric university laboratory/department research model.


The submission should explain:


  • Why this area benefits from bringing a critical concentration of talent to a single physical location.

  • How the institute would be distinctive from the traditional university department model of research. 

  • Why and how a new physical institute would facilitate progress in your chosen area.

We are deliberately very flexible about the form your submission should take. However, it should be a maximum of three A4 sides, in size 11 font (approximately 1500 words), though shorter is also fine. Diagrams are permitted but not required.


We are not looking for detail regarding the size, location, financing, or layout of proposed institutions. Rather, we are interested in a clear scientific and/or technical concept for a new institution, correlating with a vision for the structure of the institute that would cater to your chosen scientific concept. This may include, for instance, interdisciplinary work on one field of scientific enquiry, or a combined effort of new invention, new discoveries, and new theory under one roof. For real world examples of diverse institutions, consider Altos Labs, Xerox PARC, the Santa Fe institute, or the early Cambridge Laboratory for Molecular Biology.


We will be awarding between three and five prizes of £1500 each for the best visions. When judging entires, we will be advised by a group of experts who have experience in constructing or thinking about new models of science and technology. 


We will be including one example of our own in the report, covering a research institute exploring the emerging science of the physiology of the brain-body connection and technologies to heal and harness it. This is a field which is in its early stages, and requires combined discovery, theory, and invention to unlock.


DEADLINE: 20th December 2023

SUBMISSION PROCESS: Please submit your piece as a .pdf or .docx file to by the end of Wednesday, 20th December 2023.


Eligibility criteria and conditions


  • This competition is open to non-established researchers, such as graduate students, post docs, and those in the start-up world, and to researchers who have been principal investigators for less than five years. We are also open to entries from people not working in research who have interests in the space.

  • Co-written submissions from small groups are also welcome. In this case all co-authors must meet the eligibility criteria, and the prize fund will be split between the contributors.


  • At least one of the contributors must be UK-based.

  • By submitting, you are consenting to us sharing your piece with relevant experts for feedback and input.


  • In order to collect the prize money, all authors must agree to allow Better Science and TBI to publish their document in an upcoming report, and agree to work with them to edit their submission into a suitable format. The collaborative editing process should not take longer than a couple of hours to complete.

  • The essay should not be published publicly prior to a decision on publication. If successful, you agree to refrain from publishing it independently until we have published our report, which is scheduled to be in January 2024.


  • If similar proposals are each of prize-winning quality, we may work with the authors to combine them both, or award a runner-up prize to one of the submissions.


  • The authors of the upcoming New National Purpose report will make the final decision on the prize winners.


For further questions please contact,, and/or

Further reading


Laura Ryan, Alvin Djajadikerta, and James Phillips

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