Global Challenges Research Fund

Official Development Assistance (ODA) update

Please refer to ODA review for the latest information on ODA.

We provide funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to support research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. In 2019-20 we will distribute £68 million from the GCRF to English HEPs in receipt of quality-related (QR) funding.

The GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund that forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. The GCRF is administered by a number of delivery partners, including UKRI, the UK funding bodies and the four national academies, and the UK Space Agency.


The aim of the GCRF as set out in the Government’s GCRF strategy is to ensure UK science takes the lead in addressing the problems faced by developing countries, whilst developing our ability to deliver cutting-edge research. Specifically, the GCRF will significantly increase research capacity and capability in the UK and in developing countries, and excellent research with impact.

The ambition is to generate innovative solutions to intractable development issues and to identify practicable pathways to healthier and safer lives, sustainable development and prosperity for all, equal and effective education, social justice and human rights, and stable institutions.

What is the funding for?

The UK’s ODA commitment is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) and QR GCRF allocations must be spent according to ODA principles. These state that only research directly and primarily of benefit to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA. Activity funded through QR GCRF must promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective, any benefit to the UK or other developed countries must be the secondary consideration.

QR GCRF activity must also comply with ODA guidelines by working with, and supporting development within, countries and territories on the Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) list of ODA recipients. Universities should endeavour to create equitable partnerships between researchers, practitioners and policy-makers in both developed and developing countries through QR GCRF-funded activities.

Download UK Strategy for the Global Challenges Research Fund here


What is Official Development Assistance (ODA?)

ODA is defined as those flows to countries and territories on the DAC List of ODA Recipients and to multilateral development institutions which are:

provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies; and each transaction of which:

  1. is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and
  2. is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25% (discounted at a rate of 10%).”

All GCRF awards made by the delivery partners automatically comply with the first bullet and(b). Applicants need to ensure that (a) is met by the proposal they are writing and the resultant activity.

You can download the What is ODA? factsheet here.

Which countries and territories are eligible for ODA assistance?

The DAC List of ODA Recipients shows all countries and territories eligible to receive official development assistance (ODA). These consist of all low and middle income countries based on gross national income per capita as published by the World Bank.

How is QR GCRF allocated?

QR GCRF is allocated to universities in proportion to their mainstream QR allocations, including London weighting. GCRF is allocated across all REF units of assessment. Only providers who have provided QR GCRF three-year institutional strategies that have been assessed as ODA compliant will receive QR GCRF allocations for the three years from 2018-19.

The QR GCRF strategies can be found below.

What are the terms and conditions for Research England QR GCRF grant?

You can download the terms and conditions here.

What are the commended strategies?

Research England has commended 10 institutional QR GCRF strategies for best practice. These strategies have been commended not only for their full embrace of ODA principles, but also for their clear strategic focus and for how development-related research activity has been embedded within the institution’s wider strategy and activities. The commended strategies demonstrate that there is no single way to achieve best practice in ODA compliance or in development-related research, but show that universities can use their existing strengths and partnerships to develop innovative strategies for GCRF activity.

Research England has decided to commend these strategies to encourage other HEPs to adopt best practice in their own GCRF activity and to acknowledge the excellence and effort demonstrated by those who have been commended.

The following HEPs have been commended for their institutional QR GCRF strategies. Their strategies are available to download at the bottom of this page.

Falmouth University (PDF)

The strategy’s focus on one country demonstrates that smaller allocations can be utilised effectively and strategically. Falmouth also has a clear approach to the GCRF that is part of the university's current research and educational as well as third sector connections in South Africa. Activity has also been clearly mapped to specific and relevant UN SDG's.

Institute of Cancer Research (PDF)

ICR’s strategy is very clear and targets specific collaborative projects that are directly relevant and compatible with the GCRF intentions and eligibility requirements.

King's College London (PDF)

KCL’s strategy shows how large allocations covering a large range of activities and projects can be used effectively and strategically. It demonstrates how the allocation can support the meeting of full economic costs as well as capacity building through postgraduate research funding, a development partnership fund and sandwich placements.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (PDF)

This strategy has clear evidence of desire to build and support capacity in local communities and institutions in developing countries. Targeted expertise creates the ability to tackle key issues and problems and develop solutions rapidly. LSHTM’s alumni network and existing partnerships are used to provide a network for discussion and interaction. The strategy also focuses on relevant and timely engagement with current and critical issues.

Royal College of Music (PDF)

This strategy shows that small allocations can be used effectively and strategically by specialist institutions. The spirit of co-development with developing countries is specifically referred to in the strategy and RCM demonstrate effective effort to build on existing collaborations.

Royal Holloway, University of London (PDF)

This strategy correctly and clearly places the developing countries specified as prime beneficiaries with appropriate amount of emphasis on administration. The strategy also clearly identifies where RHUL will strengthen its own practices to best deliver GCRF impact and aims to integrate GCRF into long-term research priorities.

University of Bristol (PDF)

This strategy demonstrates clear benefit to developing countries. Bristol have also created a set of criteria to ensure that the intent of each project is correctly aligned with GCRF principles, and the strategy demonstrates imaginative ways to create long-term capacity and capability.

University of Exeter (PDF)

Exeter’s strategy is very clear and very well presented. In particular, it includes illustrative Research Awards Eligible for meeting the full economic cost of research, demonstrating that detail and specific information can be provided prospectively.

University of Leicester (PDF)

The strategy correctly and clearly places the developing countries specified as prime beneficiaries with appropriate emphasis on administration. It also refers to Leicester’s own Theory of Change in delivering and evaluating impact. The strategy clearly states that Leicester will deprioritise FEC funding if less funding is available in future, showing good risk mitigation.

University of Lincoln (PDF)

This is a very clear and concise strategy with clearly identified specific projects directly helping recipient countries. The strategy is also clearly linked to the University of Lincoln's overall institutional strategy.

Where can I find more details on 2018-2021 institutional QR GCRF strategies?

107 HEPs submitted three-year institutional QR GCRF strategies that have been approved as ODA compliant in 2018. View the strategies below which can be downloaded.