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ARUA – UKRI GCRF Partnership Programme for Capacity Building

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) have agreed a partnership to address the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to strengthen Africa-UK research collaborations and enhance research capacity across African and UK research communities.

The partnership between UKRI, through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), and ARUA has three main objectives:

  • to build significant capacity for science and research across African universities
  • to provide opportunities for African research teams and GCRF grant-holders to co-create new projects that build on current investments by GCRF and ARUA
  • to build equitable collaborations to strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in both the UK and developing countries.

The partnership aligns with key pillars of the GCRF strategy: to promote challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research for development, and to build equitable collaborations to strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in both the UK and developing countries. It is intended to build coherence across current GCRF investments for greater impact and to develop new partnerships that can help GCRF amplify its reach as well as its effectiveness. It will enable GCRF to work with a pan-African network with the common aim of expanding and enhancing the quality of research carried out in Africa by African researchers. It will also enable the more research intensive universities in Africa to strengthen not only their capacity and research excellence, but also those of less research intensive universities. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in August 2018 between ARUA and UKRI.

As part of this partnership, a new research programme has been developed. The programme has two key strands: (1) the Capacity Building strand with the ARUA Centres of Excellence (CoEs) aiming to build capacity at the 13 Centres, and (2) The Research Excellence strand which will initially support up to six joint research projects addressing aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals. A GCRF call will be jointly developed by UKRI and ARUA under each strand, designed to maximise and accelerate the impact of on-going GCRF and other relevant projects.

The capacity building call

This call opened in February 2019 with an Invitation to Submit from each of the 13 ARUA Centres of Excellence and is by invitation only.

Documents and guidance

Capacity Building Call: Round one outcomes

These ARUA Centres of Excellence will receive up to £600,000 in GCRF funding over three years:

ARUA Centre of Excellence

Centre host university

Centre Director and PI

Climate Change

University of Cape Town

Prof. Mark New

Food Security

University of Pretoria

Prof. Hettie Schönfeld

Materials, Energy and Nanotechnology

University of the Witwatersrand

Prof. Lesley Cornish

Migration and Mobility

University of the Witwatersrand

Prof. Jo Vearey

Poverty and inequality

University of Cape Town

Prof. Murray Leibbrandt

Unemployment and skills development

University of Lagos

Dr Sunday Adebisi

Urbanisation and Habitable Cities

University of Lagos

Prof. Timothy Nubi

Water conservation

Rhodes University

Prof. Carolyn Palmer


Round two outcomes will be announced early/mid-January 2020.

The research excellence call

The call was launched on 14 June 2019. Outline proposals must be submitted via Je-S by 16:00 British Time on 15 August 2019. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Key dates:

14 June 2019

Outline Call announcement

End-June 2019

Outline Call opens in Je-S

15 August 2019 16:00 UK time

Call for Outline proposal closes

Mid-September 2019

Panel meeting for outline proposals

1 October 2019

Full Call opens for invited submissions only

21 November 2019 16:00 UK time

Full Call closes

November 2019 – January 2020

Internal checking of applications and peer reviews

Early February 2020

Panel meeting

Late February / Early March 2020

Funding decision is announced

1 April 2020

Awards start

Documents and Guidance

Further information 


For further information please email GCRF, or contact:

Anne-Mette Olesen, GCRF Policy Manager
Telephone: +44 (0)1793 44 4599

Wendy Bown, GCRF Support Officer
Telephone: +44 (0)1793 44 4421