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Global Challenges Research Fund

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Alongside the other GCRF delivery partners we are creating complementary programmes that:

  • promote challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, including the participation of researchers who may not previously have considered the applicability of their work to development issues
  • strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in the UK and developing countries through partnership with excellent UK research and researchers
  • provide an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment, which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The GCRF delivery partners are: UK Research and Innovation, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Higher Education Division Northern Ireland, Academy of Medical Sciences, Royal Society, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and UK Space Agency.

The Fund is advised by a Strategic Advisory Group and a UKRI International Development Peer Review College forms part of the GCRF global engagement strategy for Official Development Assistance (ODA) research.

Strategy and challenge areas

The delivery partners have recently launched the UK Strategy for the Global Challenges Research Fund (PDF, 336KB). The strategy outlines the Delivery Partners’ vision for GCRF over the lifetime of the fund.

GCRF has three challenge areas, which are a vision for change and not intended to constrain innovative approaches in other areas that also address these aims.   

Equitable Access to Sustainable Development

Our vision is to create new knowledge and drive innovation that helps to ensure that everyone across the globe has access to:

  • secure and resilient food systems supported by sustainable marine resources and agriculture
  • sustainable health and well being
  • inclusive and equitable quality education
  • clean air, water and sanitation
  • affordable, reliable, sustainable energy.

Read more about how the GCRF is investing in global research partnerships (PDF, 4MB).

Sustainable Economies and Societies

The pace, nature and patterns of economic growth are threatening the future of our climate and eco-systems and are placing a major burden on the Earth’s resources. At the same time populations are increasingly shifting from rural to urban areas. Each of the five challenge areas listed above must be placed in the context of the need to create prosperous economies and societies. There is also a need to understand and address the local and global challenges of population growth and pressure on the environment and climate, as well as new socio-economic models based on enabling technologies such as digital technologies. The GCRF will also encourage research and innovation that in the longer-term, builds:

  • sustainable livelihoods supported by strong foundations for inclusive economic growth and innovation
  • resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change
  • sustainable cities and communities
  • sustainable production and consumption of materials and other resources.

Human Rights, Good Governance and Social Justice

It is increasingly recognised that development, human rights, good governance and social justice are indivisible. Developing an understanding of the institutions that embed and promote human rights, good governance and social justice - and the means to strengthen these - is paramount. Progress against the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been particularly challenging in fragile and conflict-affected states, while multiple refugee crises are applying mounting pressure in countries of origin, transit and destination. The GCRF will also support research and innovation that enables us to:

  • understand and respond effectively to forced displacement and multiple refugee crises
  • reduce conflict and promote peace, justice and humanitarian action
  • reduce poverty and inequality, including gender inequalities.

We will support excellent research that addresses a significant problem or development challenge, directly contributing to the sustainable and inclusive prosperity of people in developing countries. However, the challenges facing societies and individuals across the globe are often complex, protracted and multi-faceted and cut across the three areas above. The Fund is well placed to address these complex issues given the size of the fund, its challenge led approach and broad remit.

Open calls

Call title Council Closing date
AHRC GCRF Highlight Notice for International Development: Follow on Funding for Impact and Engagement Scheme 2020 AHRC 13 October 2020
AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Urgency Grants pilot AHRC 31 October 2020

Due Diligence guidance for UK Research Organisations

Due Diligence guidance (PDF, 137KB) is available to provide guidance on requirements when undertaking research in partnership with overseas research organisations. It is not intended to set rigid rules, but to enable Research Organisations to develop their own policies and processes which are commensurate with their risk appetite and the type of research being undertaken.

Developing a broader pool of academics

We are keen to develop and expand engagement between developing countries and UK researchers.  We have been running various events including: a series of large Global Engagement Meetings in different regions of the world; smaller scale capacity building events; and hosting GCRF sessions at other events. 

Just over 100 experts, researchers and practitioners have attended each of the events from a variety of disciplines and different countries and from a mix of academic and non-academic organisations (e.g. non-governmental organisations; charities; policy makers; international funders).

If you would like to know more about the events please contact gcrfgems@ukri.org

GCRF logo

The GCRF logo and branding guidance can be found below: