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UK Research and Innovation Appoints Nine Challenge Leaders to the Global Challenges Research Fund


UK Research and Innovation has appointed nine Challenge Leaders to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The nine challenge leaders will direct GCRF portfolios in:

  • Global Health,
  • Food Systems,
  • Conflict,
  • Resilience,
  • Education,
  • Sustainable Cities

The leaders will ensure that the Fund has the greatest possible impact on global development and move the world closer towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Challenge Leaders will work across UK Research and Innovation, the National Academies and the UK Space Agency to coordinate their GCRF programmes, bring together GCRF researchers, policy-makers and practitioners, and enable GCRF science and research to generate innovative solutions to development challenges that will improve the lives of people around the globe.

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI Executive Champion for the GCRF and Newton Fund, said:

The appointment of these 9 Challenge Leaders will ensure that the GCRF can connect with those on the frontline of global development and respond to the needs and ambitions of developing countries through cutting edge disciplinary and interdisciplinary research. Working with international agencies, development funders, industry and the GCRF research community these new Challenge Leaders will identify and develop research opportunities across different interfaces and maximise real-world impact.”

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the National Academies representative on the GCRF Strategic Advisory Group secretariat, said:

“The Challenge Leaders announced today have an excellent opportunity to work with a range of academic and other stakeholders across research disciplines to identify important synergies and enable coherent approaches and solutions to development challenges.

The Royal Academy of Engineering, and our sister Academies the Royal Society, the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences, work together closely to further the ambitious aims of the GCRF and welcome the consistency, both within and across the GCRF portfolios that the new appointments will enable.”

Professor Sir Mike Aaronson, Chair of the GCRF Strategic Advisory Group, said:

“The GCRF is a novel and exciting initiative that brings the strengths of different disciplines and approaches to bear in tackling complex development issues. The Challenge Leaders will enhance those contributions by making sure opportunities to work across boundaries are not missed and that the underlying issues that cut across different development challenges are addressed.”

Challenge Leaders have been appointed to each of the following portfolios:

Global Health

Dr Helen Fletcher, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Food Systems

Professor Nicola Lowe, University of Central Lancashire

Dr Tahrat Shahid, University of Oxford

Security Protracted Conflict, Refugee Crises and Forced Displacement

Dr Laura Hammond, SOAS University of London

Dr Neelam Raina, Middlesex University


Dr Kelsey Shanks, Ulster University

Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change

Professor Mark Pelling, King’s College London

Dr John Rees, British Geological Survey

Cities and Sustainable Infrastructure

Dr Jaideep Gupte, Institute of Development Studies

Biographies of the Challenge Leaders can be found on the Challenge Leaders webpage.


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