Tackling global crises through research

Researchers at a number of UK universities will collaborate with their counterparts in developing countries to address some of the world’s most serious challenges through a new multi-disciplinary research programme.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) has been established to ensure UK science takes the lead in addressing worldwide problems in areas including health, the environment, humanitarian crises, conflict, the economy, society and technology.

The GCRF is a part of the Government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment, overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and will be delivered through 17 partners including the Research Councils, the UK Academies and the UK Space Agency.

Today, details of 37 interdisciplinary projects being backed by the GCRF have been revealed. The projects chosen to receive the funding cover a broad range of topics and span 69 countries. A total of £225 million will be invested in these projects over the next four years.

Universities in the UK leading some of the 37 projects include the University of Glasgow, Bangor University, the University of York, the University of Ulster and the University of Huddersfield, amongst others. There are also several  research institutions aside from universities leading projects such as the Francis Crick Institute.

Research has made a large contribution to global development and is driving advances such as the creation of vaccinations, antibiotics and renewable energy. In 2015, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced demonstrating a commitment to combat major global challenges. The GCRF’s delivery partners have developed a list of challenge areas in consultation with the Department for International Development, with reference to the UK Aid Strategy and the SDGs.

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, says: “From healthcare to green energy, the successful projects receiving funding today highlight the strength of the UK’s research base and our leadership in helping developing countries tackle some of the greatest global issues of our time.” 

The chosen projects all consist of researchers from the UK and their counterparts in developing countries. The collaborative and challenge led approach will strengthen international ties and bring new perspectives to problem solving.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive designate of UK Research and Innovation, says: “In the same way that facing these global challenges requires a multi-national response, finding the solutions to them requires researchers from many disciplines to work together. The Global Challenges Research Fund makes that possible, and means that the UK’s world-leading researchers are able to get on with the job of working with each other and partners across the globe to make the world and society more sustainable.”

The fund has a total of £1.5 billion behind it and will address real-world issues such as the growing prevalence of diabetes and dementia in both the developing world and western countries. The projects also aim to use the potential of museums to promote social justice and look at new manufacturing processes to develop smart technologies. A full list of projects and the researchers leading on them is available here.

Director of UUKi, Vivienne Stern says: “The enormous scope of the projects announced is impressive. It is always fantastic to see UK universities working with partners across the world and demonstrating the ability to think creativity and innovatively. That projects are being led by large universities as well as more specialist institutions demonstrates both diversity and the spread of expertise that we have across  the entire UK higher education sector.”

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