Leaders in Innovation Fellowships: Royal Academy of Engineering celebrates five years of success

The Royal Academy of Engineering has celebrated five years of its Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF), which have provided unique support for entrepreneurs around the world.

Since 2015, the programme has supported over 1000 innovators from 17 Newton Fund countries. Participants have raised over $80 million in funding and launched more than 80 licensing deals and products, creating over 2500 jobs.

In his foreward to a new publication celebrating the programme’s achievements, Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, President of Royal Academy of Engineering, writes:

The Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF) programme builds on the success of the Academy’s Enterprise Hub to expand this entrepreneurial ambition to a global scale, working with partners in the UK and in 17 countries across five continents, to create a thriving global community of engineering innovators, each building successful businesses, while tackling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and supporting the economies of the UK and the partner countries.

As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we have a responsibility to provide leadership for engineering and technology, and technical leadership for wider society. As President, I am committed to working with Academy staff, Fellows and partners to deliver this leadership with authenticity, inclusivity and empathy, so that the Academy can serve as a progressive force that keeps humanity at the heart of engineering and delivers tangible, meaningful benefits to society. The LIF Programme offers many fine examples of such progressive leadership and engineering enterprise in action.

LIF aims to support each of the 17 Newton partner countries as well as benefitting the UK. The scheme brings together emerging leaders in the engineering-based global innovation community. Together they contribute to the social and economic development of their country through commercialisation. It encourages researchers to turn their ideas into products and develop their entrepreneurial mind and skill set.

In the past five years the LIF programme has supported innovators’ work in all 17 areas of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UK and international partners have tackled challenges from gender equality to sustainable cities and climate action.


Infographic: Royal Academy of Engineering, 'Five years of Leaders in Innovation Fellowships' book, Page 17


Achievements include:

  • Over 300 new partnerships reported by LIF participants to date spanning the 17 Newton Fund Partner countries
  • A global network of over 1100 innovators, each building their own businesses
  • Community grant awardees have engaged with over 3000 external stakeholders through 38 events
  • 977 LIF alumni are working towards the 17 SDGs
  • 100 alumni mentoring relationships were created to benefit the LIF alumni and local entrepreneurs

The Academy has published ‘Five Years of the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships Programme’. The booklet celebrates and acknowledges the emerging leaders in the global innovation community, as well as the partners, mentors and trainers who provide ongoing support to the programme. It shows how the programme and its members helped position engineering and innovation at the forefront of the global drive towards a more sustainable future.

Through LIF, I learned how to think like a businessperson as well as a scientist; evaluating the value of my research and thinking outside the box. The LIF programme not only prevented us from wasting funds but helped us accelerate the process of turning innovation into an enterprise.
Guangyin Yuan, China, LIF3 participant

Resilience was one of the key topics in the LIF6 residential training. Exactly one week later, the first COVID-19 case arose in my country. Many suppliers closed, unable to meet the higher demand for face masks. I adapted my business model to be able to meet that demand and help my country. That resilience is something I would not have had without the LIF programme.
Yolla Miranda, Indonesia, LIF6 participant

The LIF programme has allowed individuals embarking on what is commonly known as ‘the lonely journey of entrepreneurship’ to connect to their peers locally and nationally through the Academy. This connection relies on meeting and interacting with like-minded individuals and feeling empowered to make a sustainable positive impact on pressing global challenges.
Mahmoda Ali, Senior Manager, Entrepreneurship for Development

The publication also looks forward. LIF Advance, launched in 2020 was introduced to compliment the original programme. LIF Advance brings together a select cohort of LIF innovators to receive tailored relationship building opportunities in the UK. Participants can adjust their original offerings with feedback and input received through this training. In fact, many participants now see the UK as the primary market for their innovations.

Read the full document for further impact case studies and first hand participant accounts on the Royal Academy of Engineering website – Five years of Leaders in Innovation Fellowships – Royal Academy of Engineering (raeng.org.uk).