The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by ODA recipient countries.


The Fund aims to:

  • promote challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research;
  • 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.


GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. As such it is essential that any project is primarily for the benefit of the ODA recipient country. It has three principal challenges:

  • Equitable access to sustainable development
  • Sustainable economies and societies
  • Human rights, good governance and social justice

In addition, any project should tie into the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

GCRF at Kent

The University was founded on interdisciplinary principles, and has always thought creatively about how to tackle key global issues.

An example of this is the Durrell Institute for Conservation Ecology (DICE), which breaks down the barriers between the natural and the social sciences, working collaboratively to develop capacity and improve conservation management and policy. By doing so it helps conserve global biodiversity that is essential for the survival and wellbeing of people across the world.

The University has been a key beneficiary of the GCRF since it began in 2015. This includes two major projects:

  • To establish production capacity for biopharmaceuticals and animal vaccines in Thailand and neighbouring South East Asian countries. Led by Professors Colin Robinson and Mark Smales (School of Biosciences), this £4.8 million project aims to apply world-leading UK expertise to enable these countries to produce their own animal vaccines and biopharmaceutical (protein) drugs.
  • To build capacity in eastern Europe and central Asia. Led by Professor Elena Korosteleva (School of Politics and International Relations), this project aims to build partnerships and help develop capacity in research, policy and public impacts, at the top-level higher education institutions in eastern Europe and central Asia.

Support for GCRF

We are committed to supporting capacity building in ODA-compliant countries, and for our research to be used for their benefit. To this end we have agreed a strategy with Research England (pdf) to put in place a number of initiatives, including:

  • A GCRF conference, workshops and other brokerage events. The first conference took place in July 2018 and the second in July 2019. The next conference will take place in 2021, and more information will be available in due course.
  • A GCRF Partnership Development Fund, to enable and facilitate the creation and development of links between Kent and colleagues in ODA-compliant countries. More detail of this fund are available here.
  • A GCRF Emergency Response Fund, to support unforeseen opportunities to address challenges in DAC-list countries, especially those stemming from COVID-19.
  • An Impact Development Fund, to ensure that those who will benefit from our partnerships and research are integrated into any projects, and that the value of our research is maximised for end users.
  • A Global Challenges Doctoral Centre, to support the next generation of researchers in linking with ODA-compliant countries.
  • Dedicated support in Research Services, to make sure that we are fully compliant and that grant holders are supported in managing projects.
  • Support for administrators and managers for exchanges and the sharing of knowledge with their counterparts in ODA-compliant countries.

Details of the projects, collaborations and workshops we have supported since 2018 are available here.

More information

For more information on any of these initiatives, or GCRF more broadly, contact

Photo by Thomas Young on Unsplash