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Over £40M pledged in new bid to tackle global challenges

12 May 2016

Five UK Research Councils have announced the first joint interdisciplinary calls from the new £1.5Bn Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) unveiled by the Government in last year’s spending review.

Worth over £40M, the new calls are in non-communicable diseases, global infection and agriculture and food systems. They aim to leverage the UK’s world-class research base to help provide solutions to reduce and prevent diseases in humans and farmed animals, ensure a safe, nutritious and sustainable supply of food for a growing population and improve the life-long health of billions of people in low and middle income countries.

This funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) reflects the complexity of the challenges we face and the need for all disciplines to contribute to achieve international development goals.

These initial three calls aim to rapidly stimulate and enhance the research and partnerships needed to pave the way for ambitious GCRF programmes, while global challenges will also continue to be supported through other funding opportunities offered by the Research Councils.

Given the UK’s world leading reputation, research is a highly effective way to achieve international development goals, tackle multifaceted global challenges and improve the social, economic and health outcomes for people in developing countries, as well as benefiting the UK.

Over the next five years, the Research Councils and the National Academies will deliver the GCRF to ensure the excellent UK research base takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries and to build resilience and tackle major world challenges

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson, said“Our £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund represents the latest stage in our sustained investment in the UK’s world-leading scientists. This new £40 million fund is part of our commitment to tackle global issues such as food security and life-threatening diseases like Ebola, and will help improve quality of life for people in developing nations as well as here in the UK.”

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “The UK research-base has a vital role to play in helping to improve the quality of peoples’ lives across the world. Challenges around disease prevention, energy and food supply and conflict resolution pose a threat to us all – no matter where we live. BBSRC is delighted to be working in collaboration with many partners to ensure our community maximise the potential of the new Global Challenges Research Fund.”

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive MRC, said: “These new awards will accelerate the linkage of excellent UK-based research to the wider sphere of our global health research, covering new areas in infections, and vitally, extending our work in non-communicable diseases. By fostering cross-Council initiatives such as this, we are able to harness the expertise of researchers in very different fields in interdisciplinary relationships.”

Overarching global challenges identified by the Research Councils’ include: health, clean energy, sustainable agriculture, conflict and humanitarian action and foundations for economic development. Additional calls are due to be announced soon.

These three calls will go live on Friday 13 May. 

Further information:

  • BBSRC will be contributing up to £20M across the three calls
  • MRC will be contributing up to £20M across the three calls
  • AHRC and ESRC will be contributing up to £1M each across the calls, with NERC contributing up to £300K, allocated on a case by case basis

For specific call details, visit: MRC Global Challenges Research Fund - Foundation Awards or


  • Categories: Research
  • Health categories: Generic
  • Strategic objectives: International partnerships and shaping the agenda, Global health
  • Locations: Other
  • Type: News article