Feb 16 2021

Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a funding scheme that was set up by the government back in 2016 and paid for through the UK Aid Budget. Dr Hilary Lynch is our GCRF Strategy Manager and her role is to develop and implement the College’s GCRF Strategy and to work with academics to aid them in GCRF grant writing and development. We recently caught up with Dr Lynch to ask more about GCRF and how the funding has helped in the past.

1. What does GCRF stand for and what does it do?

GCRF stands for Global Challenges Research Fund. GCRF is a funding scheme that was set up by the government back in 2016 and paid for through the UK Aid Budget. The government ringfenced £1.5billion of the aid budget to fund GCRF projects between 2016 to 2021. The scheme is set to continue past 2021 with details on future funding about to be released by the government. The aim of the GCRF scheme is to put the funds towards addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the developing world, including poverty, climate change and human rights. By addressing these challenges, the fund seeks to benefit developing countries both in terms of their economy and the welfare of the most vulnerable people in society.

2. Can you tell us a bit more about your role?

I am the GCRF Strategy Manager and my role is to develop and implement the College’s GCRF Strategy and to work with academics to aid them in GCRF grant writing and development.

3. Who is the fund for?

The fund is available to academics in the UK in collaboration with academics in developing countries, working together in an equitable partnership to address these challenges through collaborative research. Other stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities, businesses, community groups and research institutes are all encouraged to be part of the research and delivery of impact arising from the work.

4. What funding areas are covered under GCRF?

The funding scheme has six challenge areas that it seeks to address: environmental resilience, food security, education for all, sustainable infrastructures, conflict and the refugee crisis. Academics working in one of these areas, in collaboration with developing country partners, can apply for funding.

5. Are researchers from all academic disciplines?

Yes. This funding is available to all disciplines. However, not one discipline can address a global challenge on this scale and therefore an interdisciplinary approach is required. The GCRF projects we have won involved several different disciplines from right across College and beyond. One such project involves academics from Physics, Earth Sciences, Management and Geography working together with Biological Sciences academics in the developing country.

6. Has Royal Holloway had much success with GCRF?

Yes, over the last three years we have seen a large increase in the number of GCRF grants awarded. In 2019-20 academics at Royal Holloway were awarded seven GCRF grants with a total award value of over £3 million. This academic year we have already won two GCRF grants and are awaiting the outcome of another seven applications so far (and we’re only in February!). The total value of grants awarded since 2016 stands at over £4.5 million.

7. How do people get involved?

If academics want to get involved, they can contact me directly to discuss project ideas and find out more about the scheme. I can provide help and advice on how to approach the application. I also advertise GCRF grant calls on my Yammer group ‘Royal Holloway GCRF Community’. Anyone can join the group by signing up to receive announcements of calls. I currently have 98 Royal Holloway academics signed up and would welcome anyone wishing to join.

The College is also provided with a block grant each year to be spent on GCRF activity. We use this money to help academics get projects off the ground. Through this grant we have funded 39 small pump-priming projects, some of which have gone on to achieve larger GCRF awards. We advertise these internal GCRF grants on our website. Academics can apply for these small grants regardless of seniority, and we actively encourage early career academics to get involved. There are a few criteria that projects must adhere to such as the project must be in collaboration with a developing country partner and that a significant proportion of the funds must be spent within the developing country. The projects must also demonstrate that they are primarily for the economic benefit of the developing country and/or welfare of its residents.

8. Where can we find out more?

Find out more by visiting the funders website here, or our GCRF pages on the College website here, or join my Yammer group by signing up for Yammer and joining the group, or by contacting me directly (hilary.lynchroyalholloway.ac.uk).