Epilepsy Research UK and Autistica have agreed a joint funding partnership with the aim of addressing the causes, prevention and clinical management of epilepsy in autistic people.


600,000 people in the UK are living with a diagnosis of epilepsy and up to 40% of them are also autistic. Epilepsy is one of the leading causes of early death for autistic people, who are more likely to have epilepsies which are resistant to standard treatments. A number of recent high-profile deaths of autistic people in NHS care have been the direct result of poorly treated epilepsy. People on the autism spectrum have been systematically excluded from epilepsy research for decades so very little is understood about why epilepsies are so common in this group and how autistic people’s seizures should be treated.

Following Autistica’s 2016 ‘Personal Tragedies, Public Crisis’ report which highlighted shocking rates of early death in autistic people.  The charity hosted a global summit on autism and epilepsy with international research leaders and experts by experience. This was followed in early 2019 by Epilepsy Research UK’s International Expert Workshop on Epilepsy and Neurodevelopmental disorderswhich also brought together world leading experts, including Autistica.

These meetings presented the latest research and seeded new research ideas and collaborations, and as a result, epilepsy in autism has been made a research priority for both charities.

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We are now inviting high quality applications for this fellowship award to address the causes, prevention and clinical management of epilepsy in autistic people.

Applications are invited for this fellowship award of upto £300,000 over 1-4 years. The award will provide research funding for a researcher planning to develop a track record in epilepsy in autism research and seeking to transition into research leadership. Funds will cover the Fellow’s salary, support staff costs, and project running costs. The candidate’s potential and the quality of the work proposed are assessed separately. The standard of the institution’s training environment offered to the candidate is also taken into consideration.


Fellowship Award applications are a two-stage process.

July 2019 – grant round opens for ten weeks for preliminary applications from 22nd July-27th September 2019.

November 2019 – preliminary applications are shortlisted by the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC).   Shortlisted applications are then sent externally for independent peer review.

January 2020 – Shortlisted applicants are invited to submit a full application, the deadline for which is typically early January. The full applications are then sent externally for independent peer review.

February 2020 – Fellowship award applicants will have the opportunity to respond to the peer review comments.

Fellowship award applicants will have an interview with members of ERUK’s SAC and a representative from Autistica.

March 2020 – Following peer review, the SAC meet to review the applications and make recommendations to the ERUK and Autistica Boards for funding.

April 2020 – Applicants are notified of the outcome of their application.

The SAC comprises a panel of the UK’s leading neurologists, neuroscientists and expert epilepsy researchers.  The current SAC membership can be found

at. Representatives from Autistica will also sit on the committee for the assessment of this fellowship award.


The SAC, in its grant-awarding capacity, abides by the code of good practice set out by the Association of Medical Research Charities (www.amrc.org.uk). As funds are limited, the selection of proposals for funding is highly competitive. Good quality proposals that are not chosen for funding are encouraged to re-apply the following year.    The criteria used by the SAC to shortlist and fund pilot studies include the following:

1 Hypothesis Is there a clear hypothesis?
2 Originality Is it an original idea?
3 Research gaps Does the proposal address a research gap identified by UKERN or another research network?
4 Practicality Is the idea sound? Can it be done, in the proposed timescale? Should the applicants collaborate with other groups or disciplines?
5 Quality Is the project well-structured and properly designed? Does the proposal contain a clear understanding of its limits as a study? Have appropriate statistical considerations been taken into account?
6 Impact How does this line of research stand to benefit autistic people with epilepsy and their family and carers?
7 Experience Have the applicants indicated that they have, or that they could rapidly attain, the necessary skills/resources/facilities to undertake the project?
8 Plain English Is the summary readable, clear and accurate?
9 Ethics Is it an ethical study?

Download the Epilepsy Research UK & Autistica Fellowship Award Guidance for Applicants here.

Download the Epilepsy Research UK & Autistica Fellowship Award Preliminary Application Form here.