Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

About the Global Challenges Research Fund

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a five year, £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries through:

  • challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research
  • strengthening capacity for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need
  • GCRF is administered through delivery partners including the Research Councils and national academies.

NEW: Internal Funding to support GCRF activity

Research England have awarded the University of Plymouth approximately £347,000 in dedicated QR funding to support research activities that will enable us and our partners in developing countries to build capacity to address these challenges.

These funds will be distributed through an internal competition – details of how to apply are below and there will be two rounds of funding this academic year

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

ODA-funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. GCRF funding will be awarded in a manner that fits with Official ODA guidelines.

The GCRF will be delivered through the seven UK Research Councils, the National Academies and HEFCE. 

Some calls will be managed by a single funder but over the five-year life-span of the fund an increasing proportion of the budget will be managed jointly to support interdisciplinary programmes.

Some calls have a limit on the number of applications that can be submitted by a single organisation; where this is the case the University will manage a process to promote collaboration and to identify and support the best proposals through to submission. Please contact for further details.

GCRF – latest news

Pre-announcement of new UKRI GCRF Collective Programme – Multiple & Systemic Risks.

A new Internal Fund to support GCRF related activity has been launched with funding from Research England – see above for details on how to apply.

Professor Rupert Jones led a successful crowdfunding bid to build a pulmonary rehabilitation centre in Kampala to treat people with chronic lung disease without using drugs – follow the link for further information – April 2018.

New GCRF page on UKRI website.

GCRF Challenge Leaders appointed.

Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) - Review of GCRF.

Plymouth projects and activities

Project  Jali Ardhi (Care for the Land) project: Realising land management change in degraded Maasai grazing lands Led by Professor Will Blake and funded by NERC as part of the Innovation Follow On call – ODA.

Project  Blue Communities Co-led by Sabine Pahl and funded by RCUK. Lead organisation Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

Project – Socio-ecological resilience to soil erosion driven by extreme climatic events: past, present and future challenges in East Africa. Led by Professor Will Blake and funded by NERC.

News article – Soil erosion in Tanzania – in pictures; published in The Guardian on 4 May 2017.

NetworkDisplacement Studies Research Network led by Dr Sana Murrani.

Project – Conserving Cultural Heritage: The Resilience of Forcibly Displaced Syrian Artisans in Jordan Led by Dr Haya Al-Dajani and funded by ESRC and AHRC.

Project – Performing Empowerment: Disability, Dance, and Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka Co-led by Adam Benjamin and funded by AHRC. Lead organisation is University of York.

Project – Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) Co-led by Professor Iain Stewart and funded by NERC, ESRC and AHRC. Lead organisation University of Edinburgh.

Project – To work towards the exchange of robotics technology for the safe and efficient harvest of fruits and vegetable crops grown in glasshouses and plastic tunnels Led by Dr Martin Stoelen and funded by STFC (Newton Fund).

Project A development study to examine feasibility and acceptability of pulmonary rehabilitation in Uganda for adults with chronic respiratory disease Led by Rupert Jones and funded by MRC, Wellcome and DFID.

Plymouth GCRF event – 10 February 2017

Title – Tackling Global Challenges through interdisciplinary and external collaboration

On 10 February 2017 the University hosted an event focused on the Global Challenges Research Fund.

Professor Tim Wheeler, Director of Science and Innovation at NERC, gave a valuable keynote speech that introduced the GCRF and highlighted a number of important considerations for making successful applications to this new funding stream.

Representatives from the Research Institutes introduced the 11 Challenge Areas that have been identified by RCUK and gave examples of projects at the University that are already having an impact in these areas (copies of these presentations are available below). Also, staff and students can download the event information booklet which includes GCRF details plus a staff directory of those interested in the fund and their expertise.

Challenge area working groups

Breakout discussions were used to begin the process of establishing new interdisciplinary groups and networks that will work on specific GCRF priority challenge areas, both across and beyond the University. 

These groups, which will be actively supported by the Institutes and Research and Innovation, will ensure that the University is well placed to respond quickly and meaningfully to future calls from this programme and other related funding streams.

For further information about these groups use the Research Institute contacts listed below.

Sustainable Earth 2017

Sustainable Earth 2017 is the annual event for the Sustainable Earth Institute, which takes place on the 29 and 30 June 2017. 

The agenda for Sustainable Earth 2017 will include further exploration of the GCRF and the skills and expertise available at Plymouth to address the challenge areas.

Challenge Area Working Group contacts

The Arts Institute
Sustainable cities and communities –

Cognition Institute/Institute of Health and Community
Sustainable health and well being – 

Marine Institute
Renewable energy and materials – Deborah Greaves/Gregorio Iglesias
Secure and resilient food systems supported by sustainable agriculture – Lucy Turner

Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory (PedRIO)
Inclusive and equitable quality education – Lynne Wyness


Institute for Social, Policy and Enterprise Research (iSPER)
Reduce conflict and promote peace, justice and humanitarian action – Charlie Dorr
Reduce poverty and inequality, including gender inequalities – Charlie Dorr
Sustainable livelihoods supported by strong foundations for inclusive economic growth and innovation – Charlie Dorr
Understand and effectively respond to forced displacement and multiple refugee crises – Haya Al-Dajani

Sustainable Earth Institute
Clean air, water and sanitation –
Resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change –