Global Challenges Research Fund


Themes and challenges

We and our partners have outlined our vision for the fund in the UK Strategy for the Global Challenges Research Fund (PDF, 337KB). The fund has three themes and six challenge portfolios.

The themes

The themes are:

  • equitable access to sustainable development
  • sustainable economies and societies
  • human rights, good governance and social justice.

Equitable access to sustainable development

We support projects that ensure everyone in the world has access to:

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

Sustainable economies and societies

We support projects that build:

  • 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

Developing an understanding of the institutions that embed human rights, good governance and social justice is inseparable from development. We support projects that help 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.

Challenge areas

We have identified six global strategic challenge portfolios:

  • cities and sustainable infrastructure
  • education
  • food systems
  • global health
  • resilience to environmental shocks and change
  • security, protracted conflict, refugee crises and forced displacement.

Our investments and partnerships are helping to tackle these challenges and deliver sustainable solutions.

The challenge portfolios align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They help to maximise the real-world impact of research funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) both by focusing research in the challenge areas and by encouraging joined-up thinking and research across the areas.

Challenge leaders

There are five challenge leaders across the six portfolio areas. They fly the flag internationally for GCRF.

Their role is to ensure the fund moves the world closer to achieving the sustainable development goals by helping to forge diverse, exciting, equitable partnerships between UK researchers and academics, policy makers and community groups across the globe. An equitable partnership is one that recognises that partners have different strengths, skills and ways of working, but ensures that all decision-making processes are open and two-way and that decisions, including on roles, allocation of resources, and sharing of benefits, are based on fairness.

They provide strong, intellectual and strategic leadership for each portfolio and strengthen coordination across delivery partners. They draw on the knowledge and experience of the fund’s strategic advisory group and on the various GCRF groups in the UKRI councils and our delivery partners.

The challenge leaders are:

  • cities and sustainable infrastructure: Dr Jaideep Gupte, Institute of Development Studies
  • education: Dr Kelsey Shanks, Ulster University
  • food systems: Dr Tahrat Shahid – Dr Shahid is also gender advisor across UKRI’s GCRF portfolios
  • global health: Professor Helen Lambert, University of Bristol
  • security, protracted conflict, refugee crises and forced displacement: Dr Neelam Raina, associate professor, Middlesex University.

Contact us to find out more about the work of the challenge leaders.


Last updated: 14 June 2021

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