The Leverhulme Trust is a large national grant-making organisation in the United Kingdom. It was established in 1925 under the will of The Rt. Hon. The 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925), with the instruction that its resources should be used to support "scholarships for the purposes of research and education."
Since its foundation in 1925 the Trust has provided funding for research projects, fellowships, studentships, bursaries and prizes; it operates across all the academic disciplines, the intention being to support talented individuals as they realise their personal vision in research and professional training.
With annual funding of some £100 million, the Trust is amongst the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK.
The Trust places special weight on:
The Victorian businessman and entrepreneur William Hesketh Lever manufactured and marketed Sunlight soap. In order to produce the soap so cheaply, and so as to ensure he could undercut competition and be so prolific, he controlled large concessionary areas in the Congo. These were granted to him by King Leopold with whom he was a close friend. Many Congolese were exploited for use in forced labour which was allowed to continue for many decades before coming to light.
Lever extended his business activities in ways that both served and profited from the rapid rise of a mass market for basic consumer products. He was also a philanthropist, supporting a variety of educational, religious, civic, community and medical causes. His achievements were recognised in 1922 when the title of Lord Leverhulme of the Western Isles was conferred upon him.
On his death in 1925, Lord Leverhulme left a proportion of his interest in the company he had founded, Lever Brothers, in trust for specific beneficiaries: to include first certain trade charities and secondly the provision of "scholarships for the purposes of research and education". The Leverhulme Trust was established. In the succeeding years, Lever Brothers became a cornerstone of Unilever, a major multinational company, created in 1930 by the merger of Lever Brothers with Margarine Unie of the Netherlands. The Leverhulme Trust's shareholding thus became part of Unilever plc. November 1983 saw an evolution in the arrangements for the two charitable objectives. Subsequently, the Leverhulme Trust has been able to give concentrated attention to research and education.
One special element in Viscount Leverhulme's legacy is the request that the Trustees all be drawn from the highest levels within Lever Brothers or now from its descendant Unilever plc. The Trust is therefore led by a group of colleagues with wide but self-consistent experience, with a high level of mutual understanding and respect built up over many years, and with a full recognition of the special qualities and achievement of the founder. The resulting culture for decision-making is free from disciplinary special interest but fully alert to the wide-ranging impact which research and education must make in modern life.
Throughout its history, the Trust has combined the direct initiatives of the Trustees made in the light of specialist peer review advice together with a portfolio of awards made by a Research Awards Advisory Committee, itself comprising eminent research colleagues drawn predominantly from the academic world. The tradition continues to the present day.
The Trust seeks to provide mechanisms for the support of researchers and students which can be effective at all stages in their careers; and currently offers the following schemes: