How to access Research Funding- experiences from the inside track

31 January 24

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Press Office

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What’s it like applying for funding from an NGO such as Fight For Sight / Vision Foundation? Below we’ll introduce you to five people who know exactly what it’s like and they hope their experiences can help other researchers secure career-changing funding too.

100% Optical, Europe's fastest growing optical event, which attracts over 10,000 optical professionals from across the globe, will be taking place in February at London’s Excel Centre. As part of the event’s 10th anniversary they have added an additional dedicated event specially designed for Ophthalmologists, 100% Ophthalmology. Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation have been invited to present a panel there on research funding.

While 100s of eye experts gather to hear the latest innovations in the field, our panel will be enlightening attendees on the value of applying for early research grants from non-government organisations such as Fight For Sight / Vision Foundation.

We are on the brink of treatments for multiple health conditions and diseases, yet research into preventing and treating sight loss currently only receives 1.5% of public grant funding. That’s the equivalent of £9.60 for each person affected by sight loss in the UK – less than the hourly living wage. We’re on a mission to change that.

Fight For Sight / Vision Foundation aims to fund the highest quality medical research, and our research goals include:

  • Understanding: Increasing understanding of how eye diseases and conditions start and develop.
  • Prevention: Preventing eye diseases and conditions.
  • Early Diagnosis: Enabling eye diseases and conditions to be detected earlier.
  • Treatment: Developing new and improved treatments for eye diseases and conditions.

A varied and experienced panel

The panel will take the mystery and worry out of accessing research funding by sharing their experiences of when they applied for grants from Fight For Sight / Vision Foundation, along with any top tips they have. Joining the researchers are Dr Steven Smith and Keith Valentine from Fight For Sight / Vision Foundation along with the following:


Professor Francesca Cordeiro: Trustee of Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation, Chair of Ophthalmology Imperial College London.

Professor M Francesca Cordeiro is a Trustee for Fight for Sight/Vision Foundation who is passionate about eye research and its funding.
She is a clinician-scientist, Chair of Ophthalmology Imperial College London, UCL Professor, Honorary Consultant Ophthalmologist & Director of the ICORG Clinical Trials Unit at the Western Eye Hospital London, and recently Founder and Director of Novai Ltd, a start-up company based on DARC Technology (an exploratory retinal biomarker for use in AMD & glaucoma clinical studies).

Her research, funded continuously by the Welcome Trust since 1996, focuses on translational approaches to saving sight and reducing disability, with over 190 peer-reviewed publications. She has received a number of international awards for her work, including the GG2 Diversity Award for Outstanding Achievement in Medicine 2017 and 2019 Duke Elder Award (RCOphth) and is globally renowned, frequently delivering keynote lectures abroad.


Professor Jacqueline van der Spuy: Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

Professor Jacqueline van der Spuy is a Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. She is the Director of the MRes in Brain Sciences programme at UCL, Chair of the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Ophthalmology-Moorfields Eye Hospital Clinical Ophthalmology programmes and the Institute Departmental Graduate Tutor for Postgraduate Research.

Her research focuses on understanding the molecular pathology of congenital and early onset inherited retinal dystrophies and the development of targeted therapeutic interventions for these conditions through the application of advances in stem cell and gene editing technologies.

Dr Abdus Samad Ansari, Ophthalmology Specialist Trainee at King’s College London, Fight for Sight / Royal College of Ophthalmologists Zakarian Award holder.

Samad Ansari is currently a TSC Glaucoma Fellow at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He has recently completed a 3-year NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) at Kings College London, in the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology whilst completing his clinical training.

His research interests include the relationship between healthy ageing, diet and mitochondrial dysfunction with Glaucoma. He was awarded the 2022 Zakarian Award from Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation to investigate this work further.

Keith Valentine: CEO of Fight for Sight.

With a track record of over 25 years of leadership roles in the sight loss sector, Keith has previously been Director of External Affairs at RNIB, Chief Executive of Vision UK and has been a Trustee of Retina UK and Action for Blind People. Keith is a strategic leader and a known force within government and industry when it comes to highlighting key issues affecting people with eye conditions.

Keith’s passion and drive comes, not least, from his experience of living with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition, causing him to lose his sight at the age of 36. He is an emphatic supporter and advocate of equity in the workplace as well as in society at large.

Dr Steven Smith: Grant Manager at Fight for Sight.

Steven joined the charity sector and Fight for Sight directly after completing a PhD in Biochemistry from the Leibniz Institute on Aging in Jena, Germany in 2017.

His role as Grants Manager means he has an oversight on the charity’s research portfolio, including pre and post awards and is brimming with information about what can lead to a successful grant application, as well as common pitfalls.


Keen to attend the event?

24-26 February at the Excel Centre are the details you need. Tickets are 100% free for ophthalmic surgeons and their wider teams, who will be able to access information and presentations created specifically and exclusively for this event. You can register for the event and seminars here.

Find out more about applying for a grant from Fight For Sight / Vision Foundation.