About the Network

The Future Leaders Fellows Development Network is a UK-wide programme providing leadership and career development opportunities to Future Leaders Fellows (FLFs) and UKRI-nominated Early Career Researchers. We were first awarded funding from UKRI in October 2020 to support FLF Rounds1-3, and in January 2022 our second contract was awarded to support Rounds 4-6.

From April 2023 to October 2024, the Network will deliver our PATHWAYS programme, providing learning and development opportunities to a cohort of 60 participants from across the UK.

Our team comprises core partners from nine industrial and higher education institutions (University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Leeds, School of Advanced Study University of London, Vertical Future, University of Cambridge, University of Glasgow, University College London) as well as additional external partners who support the delivery of our network activities.

PATHWAYS activities

Our PATHWAYS programme brings together future leaders of UK research and innovation, forming cohorts by region, discipline, interest and career ambition. We support UKRI grant holders through the delivery of training, community networking, and expanding their understanding of the wider research environment. 

Our Network activities comprise three fellow-facing areas: 

Governance structure

The Network has a comprehensive governance and working group structure to enable the development of our strategy and production of high-quality activities to support the network aims.

Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Consultant is represented at the strategic governance level (on Advisory and Project Board as well as the Strategic & Creative Working Group). Our EDI Manager coordinates with our EDI Consultant to ensure implementation of EDI strategy across our core working groups.

A diagram showing the governance structure of the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network. At the top level are the governance elements of an Advisory Board, then a Project Board and the Network's Strategic and Creative Working Group, followed by the Coordination Group. Below these sit four Working Groups: Project Management, Training and Development, Community and Cohort Experience, Research and Innovation Environment. Additionally there are Network-wide roles of Events Manager, Communications Officer, and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager.

Meet our team

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Sara Shinton


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Sara is the Head of Researcher Development at the University of Edinburgh and leads on the University’s Concordat response. She has a particular interest in inclusive research cultures, collaboration and wellbeing.

As Director, Sara engages with our partner organisations and their broad range of networks, promoting the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network and our Fellows to global and national leaders in research and innovation.

Paul Grimshaw

Knowledge Exchange Manager

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Paul has a background in innovation research and management, with experience of working in and between industry, university and charity sectors. His main role will be working to help build links, support and resources for those for Fellows who have an interest in exploring and developing Knowledge Exchange opportunities.

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Samantha Aspinall

Specialist in interdisciplinary research

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Samantha is the Head of Interdisciplinary Development in the Horizons Institute at the University of Leeds and a panel member for Future Leaders Fellows. She has worked on development programmes for academics and research staff for over 20 years, but exploring disciplinary boundaries is her real passion.

Sam is a member of our Research & Innovation Environment Working Group.

Clare Barrie

Communications Officer

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Clare is responsible for social media communications and strategy. She promotes Network activity and engages with Fellows on Twitter and LinkedIn. Clare also supports the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network website and email communications.

Clare is currently developing video and digital content to share Network programmes and activities of Fellows. She is working to share features of Fellows and their research to highlight their impactful work and develop opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Clare is also experienced in working with the media, having placed articles in leading national and international outlets online and in print on work in the cultural sector.

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Charlotte Bonner-Evans

Mentoring Manager

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Charlotte is an experienced and qualified people and project manager (PRINCE2 practitioner and MInstLM), having worked in the private sector, Further and Higher Education. She has managed a number of multi-million-pound research projects, developing a passion for supporting great research and great researchers. Having completed PGCerts in Counselling and in Higher Education Leadership and Management, Charlotte combines knowledge and practice (as an ILM practicing coach and mentor) with her desire to support others to develop and grow through mentoring, leadership, and training.

As the Partnership Manager for the Network’s multi-faceted mentoring scheme, Charlotte works with mentees and mentors daily. She is responsible for recruitment of the mentors and delivering the operational activity of the mentoring scheme.

Charlotte is a member of our Cohort Experience Working Group.

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Kay Guccione

Specialist in Mentoring

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Kay is Head of Researcher Development at the University of Glasgow and an experienced mentoring consultant. She specialises in mentoring for academic leadership and research career development and is a Masters qualified accredited coach and mentor, and a National Teaching Fellow. Kay edits the Supervising PhDs blog.

As Mentoring Specialist, Kay has drawn on her experience and research in this area to design the Future Leaders Fellows Network’s suite of mentoring programmes. She leads on evaluation design for mentoring and, through this insight, contributes to the Network’s strategic decision making.

Kay is a member of our Cohort Experience Working Group.

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Lisa Guenther

Events Manager

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Lisa is the Events Manager at the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network where she supports the effective organisation and delivery of Network events and training activities. Previously, Lisa contributed to a range of postgraduate programmes at Edinburgh and Lancaster University.

As Events Officer, Lisa works closely with Cheryl, Bridget and Charlotte to coordinate a number of programmes and community initiatives.

Lisa is a member of our Training & Development Working Group.

Vic Jenkins

Specialist in eLearning

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Vic has a background in instructional design, IT support, and training and development across the educational, charity and commercial sectors. She works with clients at UK higher education institutions on projects to create engaging and effective e-learning and online resources.

Within the Network, Vic is working closely with the Training & Development Group to create a suite of online toolkits. She also manages the Network’s website and provides a broad range of project support to several of the Network’s working groups.

Steve Joy

Specialist in leadership development and coaching

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Steve is the Head of the Postdoc Academy at the University of Cambridge. He has been working with research staff for over thirteen years, including five years as a Postdoc Careers Adviser and, latterly, four years as Head of Researcher Development.

Steve works closely with Dr Tracey Stead to plan and deliver the Network’s training and development programme, including leadership retreats, the bespoke 360 Feedback and Coaching Programme, and the wider coaching and psychometric assessment offer. He has led sessions on self-leadership, inclusive leadership, and career management.

Get in touch with Steve if you want to discuss how we can offer you personalised support or to discuss, in confidence, your ongoing career development.

Steve is Co-Lead for our Training & Development Working Group.

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Bridget Mellifont

Deputy Director - Community Manager

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Bridget has previously worked as Policy and Project Officer at the University of Edinburgh, developing research strategy with a focus on research culture. Prior to that she supported the development and communication of UK national policy, and has built relationships in HEIs and local and national governments across the UK.

As Community Manager, Bridget acts as a liaison between Fellows in the Network and our broad range of partners, acts as Chair of the Plus Fund Review Group, and contributes to the Network’s strategic decision making.

Bridget is Lead for our Cohort Experience Working Group.

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Paul Monahan


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Paul is a Learning & Development Consultant at Queen’s University Belfast, co-ordinating a range of development activities for research staff. He manages the Queen’s Fellowship Academy and supports mentoring across the University.

Sharon Morgan-Young

Innovation Manager

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Sharon has run her own consultancy for the past six years and is an experienced facilitator and mentor on several programmes including Queen’s University/Invest NI’s Multi-Disciplinary Design Programme and Innovate NI’s Techies in Residence. She also has 20 years of management and leadership experience across different sectors.

Her main role within the Network will be to co-ordinate innovation opportunities for Fellows and provide one-to-one advice.

Sharon is a member of the Research & Innovation Environment Working Group.

Katie Nicol-Baines

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager

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Katie is an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) specialist and experienced facilitator/trainer with expertise in researching barriers to career progression experienced by women and LGBT+ people related to grant funding.

Katie works alongside Udeni Salmon to create and implement our EDI strategy. She is responsible for our embedding principles of equality, diversity and inclusion across all network programmes and activities.  She supports our training and development team to embed EDI in the leadership training for fellows and develops bespoke training to respond to specific EDI needs within the Network. Katie also works with UKRI on strategies to support Inclusive Research Design.

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Udeni Salmon

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

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Udeni is an academic whose research focuses on applying race and gender theory to issues of social justice, entrepreneurship and innovation. She holds research posts at the University of Bristol and the University of Keele.

Udeni was a member of the feminist anti-racist collective Building the Anti-Racist Classroom from 2017-2019, and she has contributed to justice initatives such as the Race Equality Charter, student-led decolonisation work and organising with minoritised staff and students.

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Barry Smith

Specialist in knowledge exchange and public engagement

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Barry is the Director of the Institute of Philosophy and its Centre for the Study of the Senses at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is the founding director of the Being Human Festival and since 2013 has been the AHRC’s Leadership Fellow for the Science in Culture Theme.

As lead on public engagement, Barry provides support for Fellows and identifies opportunities for them to engage the public with their research. He also helps to sustain and develop knowledge exchange relationships with the Network’s partners in other sectors to give Fellows the change to extend the impact of their research.

Barry is a member of our Research & Innovation Environment Working Group.


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Tracey Stead

Specialist in leadership development and coaching

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Tracey is a trainer, facilitator and certified professional coach, with over 20 years of experience that spans academia and research, public and private sector. She runs a successful consultancy, working across the UK and internationally, specialising in leadership coaching, training and development with researchers at all stages of their career, as well as their stakeholders and funders.

Her role in the Network is to work closely with Dr Steve Joy to provide a responsive and diverse programme of leadership training and events to meet the needs of emerging and future research leaders. This involves commissioning and curating online training, facilitating in-person leadership retreats and coordinating 1:1 coaching (including 360 feedback) for all the researchers in our network.

Tracey is Co-Lead of our Training & Development Working Group.

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Cheryl Thomas

Project Manager

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Cheryl is an experienced project manager with a background in economic development. She is well-versed in managing projects of all shapes and sizes, and having recently worked in research support, has had the opportunity to work with researchers at all career stages to secure funding for research projects.

As Project Manager for the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network, she is excited to combine her experience in project management with her knowledge of the research funding landscape to help maximise the opportunities for Fellows in the network.

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