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Global Challenges Research Fund: Challenge Areas

The GCRF aims to support excellent research that directly contributes to the development and welfare of people in developing countries.

During 2016 RCUK developed a list of challenge areas in consultation with the UK Department for International Development, with reference to:

Over the summer 2016, RCUK sought advice from the GCRF Strategic Advisory Group, and the stakeholder community through a number of town meetings and an online call for evidence to further develop the challenge areas.  The new research agenda for enabling change is outlined below.  The three areas are a vision for change and not intended to constrain innovative approaches in other areas that also address these aims.   

Equitable Access to Sustainable Development

Our vision is to create new knowledge and drive innovation that helps to ensure that everyone across the globe has access to: 

  • secure and resilient food systems supported by sustainable marine resources and agriculture
  • sustainable health and well being
  • inclusive and equitable quality education
  • clean air, water and sanitation
  • affordable, reliable, sustainable energy

Sustainable Economies and Societies

The pace, nature and patterns of economic growth are threatening the future of its climate and eco-systems and are placing a major burden on the Earth’s resources.  At the same time populations are increasingly shifting from rural to urban areas. Each of the five challenge areas listed above must be placed in the context of the need to create prosperous economies and societies.  There is also a need to understand and address the local and global challenges of population growth and pressure on the environment and climate, as well as new socio-economic models based on enabling technologies such as digital technologies. The GCRF will also encourage research and innovation that in the longer-term, builds:

  • Sustainable livelihoods supported by strong foundations for inclusive economic growth and innovation
  • Resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Sustainable production and consumption of materials and other resources

Human Rights, Good Governance and Social Justice

It is increasingly recognised that development, human rights, good governance and social justice are indivisible. Developing an understanding of the institutions that embed and promote human rights, good governance and social justice - and the means to strengthen these - is paramount. Progress against the pursuit of the SGDs has been particularly challenging in fragile and conflict-affected states, while multiple refugee crises are applying mounting pressure in countries of origin, transit and destination. The GCRF will also support research and innovation that enables us to:

  • Understand and respond effectively to forced displacement and multiple refugee crises
  • Reduce conflict and promote peace, justice and humanitarian action
  • Reduce poverty and inequality, including gender inequalities.

The GCRF will support excellent research that addresses a significant problem or development challenge, directly contributing to the sustainable and inclusive prosperity of people in developing countries. However, the challenges facing societies and individuals across the globe are often complex, protracted and multi-faceted and cut across the three areas above. The GCRF is well placed to address these complex issues given the size of the fund, its challenge led approach and broad remit.


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