Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)
The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the Government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. GCRF is administered through RCUK and the national academies. GCRF forms part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. ODA-funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list.
CAAST-Net Plus is a network of 26 partners from Africa and Europe, who are working together to improve the cooperation between the two regions in research and innovation. It recently published a report 'Communication and Dissemination in an Africa-EU Research & Innovation Cooperation Network'
The ELHRA Effective Partnerships Programme has published a guide to support collaboration between humanitarian and academic organisations. The guide includes a number of case studies, one of which focuses on the HCRI.
The Partnering Initiative (TPI) have developed in collaboration with the World Food Programme a booklet 'The Partnership Culture Navigator' which has been designed as a practical guide to help users navigate the challenges of dealing with different organisational cultures when working in cross-sector partnerships. Differences in organisational and professional cultures are a common source of misunderstanding in international collaboration: they can reduce the efficiency and the impact of cross-sector partnerships and can generate risk. The Navigator outlines a number of key issues for consideration and proposes some achievable actions that can be taken both to make it easier to deal with different cultures and to make your own organisational culture more partnership-friendly.
For funders an essential requirement of GCRF applications will be applicants strategies for engaging with end users, policy makers and at risk/affected populations, to ensure the proposed plan of research is informed by their needs. In April 2016 DFID published a useful document 'Research Uptake' which covers the different strands of research uptake (stakeholder engagement, capacity building, communication and monitoring & evaluation). The guide is accompanied by a Research Uptake Checklist.
ESPA (ecosystem services for poverty alleviation produced a series of Short Guides to Interdisciplinary Research which may be of use to researchers.
Applicants should always ensure they have considered existing advice on ODA eligibility. The GCRF delivery partners have prepared guidance on key ODA compliance issues to note in writing applications for funding. Any applications for ODA compliant research funding need to comply with these guidelines.
Proposals made to the GCRF must make it clear that the research project’s primary purpose is to promote the economic development and welfare of a developing country or countries.
- Seek to investigate a specific problem or seek a specific outcome which will have an impact on a developing country or countries on the DAC list;
- Provide evidence as to why this is a problem for the developing country or countries;
- Address the issue identified effectively and efficiently
- Use the strengths of the UK to address the issue, working in collaboration with others as appropriate;
- Demonstrate that the research is of an internationally excellent standard;
- Identify appropriate pathways to impact to ensure that the developing country benefits from the research.
Any benefit to the UK or other developed countries has to be the secondary consideration and should not lead to a project being funded if it doesn’t primarily deliver the development objective.
- Is a project always ODA compliant if the research is based in a country on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list?
No - it is the purpose of the research that drives compliance not the location. Only research directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA.
- Is a project ODA compliant if it supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Not necessarily. SDGs are relevant to all countries. Only research directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA.
Applications to GCRF calls are required to include an ODA compliance statement. However, there are a number of external factors that can cause a project to become non-compliant over time, so investigators will need to monitor ODA compliance throughout the life of a project, and provide evidence of continued compliance in the final project report. Examples of risks to ODA compliance include:
The research question changes incrementally from that which was originally funded (and approved as ODA compliant). For example, there is an underspend on one part of the project, so funding is increased in another area, which alters the primary benefit.
Beneficiary country drops off DAC list
If the beneficiary country is the sole DAC listed partner on a project, and they graduate from the list, the project would cease to be ODA compliant. The DAC revises the list every three years. Countries that have exceeded the high-income threshold for three consecutive years at the time of the review are removed. The next review of the DAC List will take place in 2020. There is a note at the bottom of the DAC list, which indicates the countries that are expected to graduate at the next review, provided they remain high income countries until 2019.
Project loses an ODA recipient partner
From time to time, a partner may have to pull out of a project. If that partner’s contribution is essential to the project’s ODA compliance, then it may be compromised.
Partners have a different understanding of the research aims
GCRF promotes autonomy and equity within partnerships, but there is also an expectation that the ODA compliance will be assured by the UK partner. To promote transparency and avoid misunderstandings further down the line, it is important that partners are aware of the ODA requirements prior to the commencement of the award.
If you are concerned that your project’s ODA compliance may be compromised please contact the funding call coordinator James Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible.
GCRF is administered through delivery partners including the Research Councils and national academies with each taking a different approach. While the majority of the funding will be made available via a cross-Council Collective Fund built around a number of Challenge Areas, each of the funding bodies have also provided an early indication of their approach and mode of delivery.
The Collective Fund will be administered by RCUK
BBSRC has already led on or been involved in some of the early calls
MRC has outlined its approach to Global Health in response mode which it will elaborate on later in the year
RCUK have intimated that the level of capacity strengthening in DAC countries will be part of the decision making process when funding GCRF projects. The Capacity Research Unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine specialises in the science of capacity strengthening.
Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University, following a stint as a GCRF panel member and further discussion with fellow panel members and staff from BBSRC, NERC, MRC and ESRC has come up with a list of suggestions that will help researchers write a fundable GCRF proposal.
A guide for researchers considering or planning to engage in fair and equal partnership towards common goals
- Seven principles for strengthening research capacity in low- and middle-income countries: simple ideas in a complex world
This good practice document of the ESSENCE on Health Research initiative is designed to provide broad guidance on how best to strengthen research capacity with the maximum possible benefit. The guidance has been broken down into a number of principles and accompanied by illustrative examples to show how they have been adopted in practice, as well as some of the most commonly encountered barriers to their effective implementation.
SIN teams are a good first point of contact for science and innovation opportunities in the UK and internationally through events, networking activities and direct contact.
Work for and with universities, national research and extension institutions, development agencies, the private sector, national and local governments, charities and foundations, farmers and non-governmental organizations.
LCEDN brings together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners from across the UK to expand research capacity around low-carbon development in the countries of the Global South.
Tropical Health and Education Trust runs the Health Partnership Scheme, a six year, £30 million DFID programme that supports Health Partnerships in the UK to deliver effective health worker training projects in collaboration with overseas partners. HPS provides grant funding, advice & support to partnerships
18th May Update
The MRC have issued a Cancer Research and Global Health Initiative GCRF call with the aim of expanding its portfolio of research in cancer and global health to help tackle these challenges in LMIC’s. Two parallel calls have been announced - full applications to a pump-priming call (up to £200k) and a call for outlines for substantive research proposals. The deadline for both calls is 20th June. A workshop will take place on Friday 25th May to provide an opportunity for UoM researchers to explore the potential for interdisciplinary partnerships with the aim of forming strong collaborative bids for submission to the call.
The AHRC have a couple of calls at the moment. Up to £100k is available under a new scheme supporting research into the relationship between Parliaments and People in Ethiopia and Myanmar. The deadline for applications is 30 June. There are also funds available as part of a highlight notice under the Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement Scheme. The aim of the highlight notice is to encourage applications exploring innovative ways to enhance engagement with, and impacts from, research funded by the AHRC in one or more ODA countries and/or which will contribute more broadly to international development. The highlight notice will provide opportunities to submit collaborative applications for up to £100,000 over periods up to 12 months. The deadline is 25 July.
A new call for Global Challenges Research Fund Networking Grants will be issued in June with an August deadline. These are administered by the Academy of Medical Sciences on behalf of the UK academies.
Research England have made available details of recurrent grant allocations to HEI’s for 2018/19. Included in the overall QR allocation is £58m for GCRF, an increase of £10m on the 2017/18 allocation. The £58m is roughly in line with the indicative allocations identified as part of HEFCE’s requirement for Institutional three-year QR strategies. The University submitted its strategy document at the end of March and the GCRF Strategic Advisory Board will meet before the end of the session to progress the activities identified in our submission.
UKRI have recruited nine GCRF Challenge Leaders who will be responsible for the building and success of individual GCRF challenge portfolios and together collectively responsible for maximising the portfolios’ overall research excellence and real-world impact. They will direct GCRF portfolios in Global Health, Food Systems, Conflict, Resilience, Education, and Sustainable Cities. Challenge Leaders will be charged with maximising the coherence and impact of each portfolio by working with UKRI and other delivery partners, and to seek opportunities beyond GCRF through alignment/integration with the ODA portfolios (e.g. the Newton Fund) across UK Government and with other funders. UKRI have also set up anInternational Development Peer Review College. The intention is initially for members of the college to provide expert reviews for the full proposals submitted to the Interdisciplinary Research Hubs call.
NIHR will soon announce details off successful applications to the 2nd round of its Global Health Research Groups competition. They have indicated that they are not intending to issue further calls and will consolidate the existing portfolio prior to making a decision on the future use of GCRF funds.
Full applications to the GCRF Interdisciplinary Hubs call will be submitted on 24th May and the University has at least one Co-I on 7 of the 52 bids that progressed to the full application stage. The general observations provided following the Outline Panel assessment are informative and should be taken into account when submitting to all GCRF calls. Informal feedback, which is also applicable, included the requirement for innovation and ambition; the track record of the PI; the need for a genuine partnership (co-production); early career involvement and the need to link to government departments.
The British Council currently have calls out for Institutional Links Grants, Researcher Links Travel Grants and Researcher Links Workshop Grants with specific countries. The deadline for all three calls is 8th June.
DFID & The Wellcome Trust have launched the first call for proposals under their Joint Initiative on Epidemic Preparedness. The objective of the call is to support the most suitable proposals to generate new innovative and systematic ways to conduct social science research in contexts of epidemic preparedness and response. Priority will be given to proposals that are practical, useable and implementable by those wanting to carry out social science research during an outbreak response and are designed to address key priority pathogens. Outlines are required by 11 June and a total of up to £2m is available. MRC/DFID & NIHR have issued their 3rd call for applications for research to improve adolescent health in LMIC settings. The total amount available for this call is £4m and the closing date for applications is 18 September.
The MRC and NIHR, in partnership with the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases is seeking to generate new knowledge on interventions and their implementation for the prevention or management of hypertension and/or diabetes. The call will support research associated with the scale-up of interventions for the prevention, and/or detection and management of hypertension and/or diabetes in LMICs. Collectively, the MRC and NIHR will invest up to £6 million for this initiative.Applications must be submitted by 10 September.
Details of all calls are currently available at http://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/services/rbess/intranet/gcrf/