Annex One: GCRF Additional Guidance

What is the GCRF?

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

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a new £1.5bn funding stream, created to address critical challenges faced by developing countries. It forms part of the Government’s pledge to allocate 0.7% of Gross National Income to Official Development Assistance (ODA). ODA-funded activity focuses on the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. The primary aim of proposed activity must be to promote the welfare and economic development of a country or countries on the list, be designed to address a development need and focus on developing country problems. Importantly, GCRF funding will be awarded in a manner that fits with Official ODA guidelines (See also RCUK GCRF and ODA Guidance).

GCRF Challenge Areas

Central to the GCRF are 11 global challenge areas, created with reference to the UK Aid Strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which define the fund’s focus for research funding. They are:

  1. Secure and resilient food systems supported by sustainable marine resources and agriculture.
  2. Sustainable health and wellbeing.
  3. Inclusive and equitable quality education.
  4. Clean air, water and sanitation.
  5. Affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.
  6. Sustainable livelihoods supported by strong foundations for inclusive economic growth and innovation.
  7. Resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change.
  8. Sustainable cities and communities.
  9. Sustainable production and consumption of materials and other resources.
  10. Understand and effectively respond to forced displacement and multiple refugee crises.
  11. Reduce conflict and promote peace, justice and humanitarian action.
  12. Reduce poverty and inequality, including gender inequalities.

How will BC applications be assessed in relation to the GCRF criteria?

Initiator awards are limited to £20k and three months’ duration and therefore, the expectation is not that communities will have developed full GCRF proposals in this time period, rather that they will have explored collaborative research ideas in line with GCRF priorities and ODA compliance so as to be strongly positioned to leverage this funding. Accelerator awards, up to £75k and of six month duration, will be expected to articulate how they will be able to deliver a step-change in research, in line GCRF priorities and ODA compliance, with a view to submitting a GCRF bid.

In line with the GCRF’s objectives, applications should focus on one of more GCRF challenge areas. The main aim of the project must be to explore joint disciplinary and interdisciplinary research priorities that have the potential for significant direct impact on the welfare and economic development of developing countries.

Additionally, applications should articulate consideration for capacity and capability strengthening and partnership building both within the UK and developing countries. For further information on the GCRF, please see the RCUK’s GCRF page.


ODA compliance is a critical and implicit part of successful GCRF applications. Simply, to be ODA compliant, proposals need to promote the economic development and welfare of one or more DAC listed developing countries as its main objective. DAC maintains strict criteria on how this should be done, requiring projects to identify critical development needs, encourage sustainable impact, build capacity and capability within the involved countries, and avoid excluded activities (military activity, among others).

Applicants will be expected to have read and understood the ODA guidance and be able to clearly articulate the community’s intention to undertake activities that will explore and identify collaborative research priorities that are ODA compliant. Further information on ODA guidance:

Compliance Table

This table is a significantly simplified version of the numerous criteria used to assess GCRF complaint proposals and will be used during assessment to help determine the strength of your proposal in line with the GCRF criteria.

GCRF Assessment Criteria

  1. Is the proposal working for the development of DAC listed countries?
  2. Is the application ODA compliant and free from any activity excluded under ODA?
  3. Does the project address the economic development and welfare of the country in question as the main objective?
  4. Does the application respond to one or more GCRF challenges, and an urgent research need?
  5. To what extent does the application recognise and plan for the need to develop capacity building*, both in the UK and the target country/ies?
  6. Is it possible to rate the potential for delivering significant, sustainable impact?
  7. How strong is the team?

*Capacity building activities are integral to successful GCRF research projects. The expectation is that both Initiator and Accelerator applications should articulate clear, well thought through plans for capacity building, although it is appreciated that implementation of these plans is only likely to occur during the longer Accelerator award period.

If you require more help in relation to GCRF please contact the GW4 Building Communities Team who will put you in contact with your local GCRF experts.