Applying for official development assistance (ODA) funding

ODA is government support that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of low and middle-income countries (LMICs). ODA is also known as the overseas aid budget.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provide the globally accepted definition of ODA.

UKRI delivers ODA funding on behalf of the government through various schemes and funds. Historically, this has included the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund.

Upcoming opportunities will feature those under the International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF), including the ISPF Institutional Support Grant (ODA) funding provided by Research England.

Find more information about ISPF and current funding opportunities.

This guidance is intended for use alongside UKRI research council funding opportunities. For Innovate UK ODA funding, contact the Innovate UK office that is administering the opportunity.

Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list

The DAC List of ODA Recipients specifies all countries and territories eligible to receive ODA funds. It is managed by the OECD and is revised every three years.

You, the applicant, are responsible for ensuring that the country that primarily benefits from your project is on the DAC List of ODA Recipients and is not due to graduate from the list for the duration of the activity.

Eligibility criteria

An ODA project should:

  • benefit a country or countries that are on the DAC list and are not due to graduate from the list for the duration of the project
  • have a primary purpose of promoting the economic development and welfare of a country or countries on the DAC list
  • investigate a specific problem or seek a specific outcome, of which the primary impact will be on a country or countries on the DAC list

We will also support research capacity strengthening to improve development, for example, to increase the skills and knowledge base and support the development of the research capability and infrastructure within developing countries.

Funding exceptions

Applicants working in India, China or both, who wish to apply are strongly advised to contact the team administering the opportunity for guidance as early as possible.


UKRI is unable to support ODA research and innovation activities taking place in China, or where China is the direct beneficiary. This means the ODA compliance statement submitted by applicants should not identify China as part of the project rationale or justification.

Providing no UK funding flows to China, it is permissible for China-based researchers to be involved in UKRI funded activities, when part of a consortia of internationally based researchers. China-based researchers are not eligible to lead applications.


Where India is involved in an ODA funded project, with funding provided by UKRI, it should not be the sole or a primary beneficiary of the activity. The primary beneficiary should be another country or countries on the DAC List of ODA Recipients, though it is possible to have secondary benefits to India and the UK from ODA funding.

Your ODA compliance statement should not identify India as part of your project rationale or justification.

Institutions based in India are no longer eligible to lead UKRI applications, but are welcomed as collaborating organisations hosting project co-lead (international).

Applying for funding

In addition to meeting the specific criteria for the funding opportunity that you’re applying for, your application should:

  • demonstrate ODA compliance via a statement based on a suggested set of questions
  • show that any research being conducted in an LMIC country or countries will involve thought leadership and expertise from those countries
  • demonstrate that any partnerships between the UK and partner countries will be conducted in an equitable manner
  • provide realistic project specific details of the budget and time resources required, to enable equity in project development and management
  • articulate any secondary benefits, whether that is in the UK or another high-income country
  • demonstrate that the benefitting country or countries have existing or potential capacity to utilise the innovation within the domestic industry, if the research could lead to commercialisation

Note that it is not normally acceptable for the commercialisation of research to take place solely in a high-income country, unless there is a clear plan to build new businesses or business growth in the LMICs.

ODA compliance in your application

As part of your application, you will be required to provide an ODA statement to demonstrate how your proposed work meets ODA compliance criteria.

In your response, it is recommended you answer the following questions:

  • which country or countries on the DAC list will directly benefit from this proposal
  • how your proposal is directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of these countries
  • how you expect the outcomes of your proposed activities will promote the economic development and welfare of a country or countries on the DAC list
  • how the proposed activity is appropriate to address the development need
  • the approaches you will use to deliver development impact within the lifetime of the project and in the longer term, considering the potential outcomes, the key beneficiary and stakeholder groups and how they will be engaged to enable development impact to be achieved

Costing international co-leads

Costs attributed to international co-leads from high-income countries (those not on the DAC List of ODA Recipients), or India must not exceed 30% of the full economic cost grant value.

Demonstrating impact

You should be realistic about the impact that your project can deliver. UKRI recognises that research outcomes are often uncertain and cannot be guaranteed. Your proposal should demonstrate a realistic pathway with the potential to deliver impact during and beyond the duration of the activity.

You can increase the likelihood and scale of impact from your project by actively involving relevant stakeholders throughout the research lifecycle. Where possible, the project should be delivered through equitable partnerships with researchers and academics from the country in which the impact is intended for. Stakeholders may also include voluntary, community, commercial, private, public, and government sectors.

In your application you should demonstrate relevant experience or expertise, of your team, for both UK and overseas partners. Where possible, details of stakeholder engagement also should be provided in your application.

How we will assess your application

We will carry out initial ODA compliance checks on all applications. Proposals that do not meet the eligibility criteria may be rejected before peer review.

Applications which pass the initial checks will be assessed by a competitive peer review process. As part of the peer review, proposals will be assessed for full ODA compliance, projects must be fully ODA compliant to be considered for funding.

ODA project compliance

ODA projects must remain compliant to ODA principles throughout their duration. If your concerned about your projects ODA compliance you should contact us as soon as possible, at email:

Who to contact

If you have questions about an ODA funding opportunity, use the contact details provided on the specific funding opportunity you are applying to.

Last updated: 23 July 2024

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