GCRF blog

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund, led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and running from 2016 to 2021. It forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and is administered by delivery partners including the four UK higher education funding bodies, the research councils and the four national academies.

The GCRF’s aim is to support cutting-edge research and innovation that address the global economic and social issues affecting developing countries. It focuses on those that are eligible to receive Official Development Assistance (ODA); low- and middle-income countries which include the world’s least-developed.

At HEFCE we allocate GCRF funding to English universities through our quality-related research grants (QR). Since 2016-17, we have distributed over £60 million from the GCRF in this way. This is new and additional money which allows all universities in receipt of mainstream QR funding to pursue and sustain development-related research beyond their existing activity.

How can you use this funding?

While the requirements of ODA compliance are specific, there are a number of ways in which universities can use QR grants to support eligible and valuable research activity.

The flexible nature of this funding means that you can use it for development-related research activity that fits with your wider research strategies and your areas of relative strength. It can allow you to strengthen existing relationships and foster new partnerships and networks with researchers, charities, businesses and other partners in developing countries. It also enables you to develop coherent and sustainable strategies for your ODA activities, maximising the benefits for developing countries.

GCRF funding allows you to begin development-related research in new areas, as well as sustain and strengthen current activity.

It can be used to:

  • build capacity and capability – both in the UK and in developing countries
  • facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative research
  • generate impact from research that directly benefits developing countries
  • provide agile responses to emergencies with an urgent research need – such as the recent Zika and Ebola outbreaks
  • help meet the full economic costs of ODA research – providing vital funding to underpin the GCRF research activity funded through other delivery partners.

We particularly encourage universities to develop equitable and sustainable partnerships with developing countries using this funding. This can ensure that research into social and economic problems is both challenge-led and directly relevant to those countries, as well as aiding the pathways to impact and knowledge exchange.

Telling us your plans

In January 2018, we asked universities to produce three-year strategies detailing how they would spend and monitor such GCRF funding in future. These strategies will be assessed against ODA criteria, and will determine whether institutions receive QR GCRF allocations from 2018-19.

This gives universities an exciting chance to review and enhance their strategies for research into the problems faced by developing countries.

There is some work involved

The extra assurance provided by these strategies is necessary to meet the conditions attached to ODA funding, of which the GCRF is part.

We realise that providing the information may be burdensome for some institutions. Some may even choose not to participate, whether for this reason or because their funding allocation is relatively low.

To help, our process aims to minimise burden wherever possible. For example strategies cover three years of funding from 2018-19, and universities with smaller allocations do not need to give as much detail, providing the assurances are sufficient.

Taking the opportunity

Even the smallest allocation could make a valuable contribution to your development-related research goals – for example taking on resource to manage a vital overseas research project, or forging first relationships with partners in a developing country.

Whatever your plans, and whether your allocation is large or small, at HEFCE we are excited to see how you plan to invest your GCRF funding.

See more information on how to provide your strategies

If you have any questions, contact Helena Mills, globalchallenges@hefce.ac.uk, tel 0117 931 7192.