The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supports cutting-edge research to address challenges faced by developing countries. It is part of the UK’s official development assistance (ODA) and is managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
In February 2022, BEIS announced that GCRF, alongside the Newton Fund and the Fund for International Collaboration, will not continue in their current format, but legal commitments will be met until their natural conclusion.
UKRI has confirmed that it will support projects still running as part of these funds for the remainder of their grant period. See our update statement on GCRF and Newton following the spending review 2021.
How the fund works
The fund addresses the United Nations sustainable development goals. It aims to maximise the impact of research and innovation to improve lives and opportunity in the developing world.
We are one of the delivery partners alongside 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.
We also work in partnership with other organisations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). We have signed a memorandum of understanding with UNDP that commits us to ensuring closer collaboration between researchers and policymakers across the world by combining our collective expertise in driving international development, research and innovation.
We and our partners are supporting 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.
Find out more about working with overseas partners in our good research resource hub.
The fund is advised by a strategic advisory group, and UKRI’s international development peer review college ensures that developing country perspectives are a key part of expert review.
Projects that have been funded
The first phase of the GCRF is a five-year programme between 2016 and 2021. Funding has been allocated to hundreds of projects including:
- low-cost tools for assessing dementia in low-to-middle income countries
- a global network for addressing neglected tropical diseases
- using traditional culture and art to promote democracy in Sri Lanka
- sustainability in the Costa Rican dairy sector
- taking electricity to low-income areas in Rwanda
- use of groundwater to build community resilience in Nigeria.
We are also supporting major programmes that address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals including interdisciplinary research hubs, a partnership programme with African universities, and a programme to grow research capability between institutions in the developing world and the UK.
Contact us for more information on UKRI’s activities in GCRF.
Interdisciplinary research hubs
We have awarded between £13 million and £20 million each over five years to 12 interdisciplinary research hubs working across a range of development challenges.
The hubs bring together researchers, governments, international agencies, NGOs and community groups in developing countries and the UK. They share knowledge and expertise on innovative and sustainable solutions to help make the world safer, healthier and more prosperous.
The hubs include 400 unique partner organisations in 85 countries and 550 researchers from a range of disciplines addressing 16 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Find out more about:
- the hubs in UKRI GCRF Global Interdisciplinary Research Hubs: Building global research communities to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for international development (PDF, 7.12MB)
- each programme and its partners
Contact us for more information.
African Research Universities Alliance partnership
We have a partnership with the African Research Universities Alliance to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals by strengthening UK-Africa research collaborations and improving research capacity in the UK and Africa.
Its aim is to:
- build significant capacity for science and research across African universities
- provide opportunities for African research teams and GCRF grant holders to jointly create projects that build on current investments
- build collaborations that strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in both the UK and developing countries.
The partnership is supporting 13 African Research Universities Alliance centres of excellence with up to £600,000 each over three years to build research capacity. Four research projects are also receiving up to £2 million each over three years for work in food security, pollution and water resource management, conflict-prevention and peacebuilding, and the impacts of climate change.
Growing research capacity
We have invested £225 million in 37 projects to grow research capacity around the globe.
The aim is to strengthen and broaden skills and expertise to address specific challenges of developing regions and countries, and to generate long-lasting partnerships, ideas and knowledge.
The programme involves 69 partner countries, and each collaboration is between institutions in developing countries and in the UK.
Find out more about all these collaborations in our publication Growing research capability to meet the challenges faced by developing countries (PDF, 2.1MB).
GCRF Collective Programme
The Collective Programme is made up of over 140 projects across 18 funding opportunities. It is designed to enhance the overall impact across UKRI’s six strategic GCRF portfolios in:
- global health
- sustainable cities
- food systems
This research is contributing to realising the ambitions of the UK government’s aid strategy and progressing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To find out more about how we’re strengthening global partnerships for sustainable development, read our publication on the GCRF Collective Programme (PDF, 3.8MB).
How to apply
Search the Funding finder for opportunities supported by the GCRF.
You should also check for opportunities offered by our delivery partners. Contact us for more information.