MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Met


GCRF: 7 Questions & Links about Official Development Assistance through Research

In the Chancellor’s Budget Speech (22 November 2017), he’s confirmed that there’s an additional £2.3bn in the research budget to make sure the UK is a world leader in research & innovation.  As alignment of research to international priorities continues to increase in importance, we thought it might be helpful to set some of the opportunities in context and give a quick reminder of where to find out more information about opportunities.

What is the Global Challenges Research Fund? 

The UK government has committed to deliver a key element of its international aid (Official Development Assistance, ODA) through “cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues affecting developing countries”.  The resulting Global Challenges Research Fund aims to use research & innovation to reduce poverty, address development challenges and build capacity in developing countries.

Why is the government funding GCRF? 

The UK government has committed to spending 0.7% of GDP on International Aid.  Meanwhile, in Autumn 2016 the government committed to spending an extra £2 billion on research and wants to ensure the UK has a University sector which delivers global impact.  At a time when budgets are tightening, one of the ways that government can make both targets is by creating an explicit link between research and international development.  Through careful selection, each £1 invested in the Global Challenges Research Fund can be counted as an additional £1 in the Research AND International Aid budgets.  This funding also helps the government meet some of its other international aspirations: improving & maintaining the UK’s influence and brand as well as helping the UK deliver its commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

What sort of research can be undertaken? 

The UK Research Councils state that: The GCRF aims to support excellent research that directly contributes to the development and welfare of people in developing countries.  These projects need to demonstrate benefits to those countries in receipt of international aid (ODA recipient countries).  This can either be through activities to enhance capability & capacity in the target country and/or research which is aligned to the key challenges faced by that country. GCRF funding is challenge-led, focusing on research which will support Equitable Access to Sustainable Development, Sustainable Economies and Societies, and Human Rights, Good Governance and Social Justice.

Which countries are eligible? 

The funding is target at the countries which are in receipt of Official Development Assistance (ODA), as defined by the OECD, and there’s a handy map on the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) website.

 How much money? 

The UK government has committed £1.5bn by 2020-21.  In 2016-17 there is £112m in the budget but by the final year this will have increased to £492m.

Who are the big funders? 

GCRF funds are being distributed via:

There are also parallel funding streams for funding Research in Development. The Newton Fund brings together UK funding agencies with their counterparts in countries in receipt of ODA.  Through a set of partnership agreements, the Newton Fund supports activities including developing links, research and translation of research, which align to the priorities of the partner country in question. Money will also be invested in combatting disease and drug-resistant infection through the Ross Fund and the Fleming Fund.

What do we need to consider in order to be ready to bid?  

In order to be ready to bid for funds, there are four key questions which should be asked:

  • Is the project addressing economic development and welfare in the country in question?
  • What evidence is there of the need for this project from national and international strategies?
  • Are the countries involved on the DAC List of ODA Recipients?
  • Do you have existing links in the country, with delivery partners and/or academics?

Where can we find out more? 

  •  GCRF calls managed through the UK Research Councils are listed on the RCUK’s specific page and the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) also maintains a wider list of funding opportunities here.
  • You can also find opportunities using Research Professional (Ed – all Manchester Met academics have access to Research Professional. If you have any issues accessing please let us know (
  • The Blog! We regularly share key opportunities.

Manchester Met’s International Research Development Managers (Margaret Eastcott & Christopher Grinbergs) in conjunction with colleagues in Research & Knowledge Exchange are available to discuss opportunities and provide more information.


Global Challenges – British Academy


The British Academy have announced details of a call focusing on Cities & Infrastructures, funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund, with a deadline of 14 June 2017. This call is subject to Official Development Assistance eligibility criteria (Ed – see the end of the post for more details)

The call will support interdisciplinary projects which address the challenge of creating and maintaining sustainable and resilient cities in developing countries. The call has four sub-themes (taken from British Academy website):

“a) Planning: In the context of the large, dispersed and unplanned cities of the global south, planning for resilience becomes a matter of collaborative initiative involving a host of actors and sentient infrastructures. This requires mobilising plural and interdisciplinary knowledges, both for understanding and for acting in intelligent ways. 

b) People: Human vulnerability and resilience go hand in hand. The poor are deprived in plural ways, but also forced to become resilient subjects, making use of the city and their know-how in imaginative ways.

c) Infrastructure: Cities are held together by infrastructures, which also instantiate and regulate social life in quite strong ways. In the global south the infrastructures are broken, incomplete, badly regulated, underfunded and often reliant on vernacular improvisations. Technical solutions alone will go only so far, and are expensive.

d) Habitat: The urban habitat is central to resilience, in the form of lived experience, the consequences of emissions and heating, the formation of symbolic and public culture, the consequences of urban architecture and design. This is an obvious terrain for interdisciplinary work on jointly making sense of how habitats can be managed as a silent form of ‘atmospheric’ regulation.”

Projects in the region of £300k will be supported, and the British Academy anticipate that these will last for up to 16 months with start dates in September 2017. You can access the scheme notes here.

If you are interested in applying for this call, please contact your Research Development Manager in the first instance who will be able to advise on your eligibility and the specific requirements of this call.

About ODA Eligibility Criteria

The Cities & Infrastructure Programme aims to support the “economic development and welfare of developing countries.” Only research that has a primary objective which is directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA. We will require applicants to demonstrate that the proposal is ODA eligible. ODA eligibility is an essential criterion – projects will only be deemed eligible for funding if they can demonstrate that they satisfy ODA eligibility criteria. The British Academy, with the other Global Challenges Research Fund delivery partners, have provided an additional ODA guidance document for applicants.