‌GCRF is a £1.5bn fund pledged by the UK government to support cutting-edge research which addresses the challenges of low and middle income countries (LMIC).

Global Challenges Research Fund

University of Dundee Global Challenges

The University of Dundee has a clear mission – to transform lives, locally and globally, by the creation, sharing and application of knowledge. We do this via world-class teaching and pioneering research, which impacts far beyond Dundee: the recent Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, which assesses universities’ contribution to the delivery of UN Sustainable Development Goals, placed Dundee 44th globally, one of only three Scottish universities in the top 50, and 9th overall for SGD 3 “Good Health & Wellbeing” (THE Impact Rankings 2020).

We are committed to intensifying this global impact, by enabling our academic community to engage in addressing the many challenges facing our planet. We work to strengthen partnerships in the Global South, aimed at tackling pressing development challenges, which disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable.

The University assists UK Government efforts to boost ‘research for development’ via initiatives such as the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Newton Funds.

About the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

In 2015, the UK Government launched a new aid strategy, which set out a cross-government commitment to tackle “global challenges in the national interest”. It pledged to enhance the UK’s ‘research for development” activity and saw the creation of the £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund - the foremost of a group funds utilising Official Development Assistance to support cutting-edge research for development.

The GCRF aims to:

  • promote challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, including the participation of researchers who may not previously have considered the applicability of their work to development issues;
  • strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in the UK and developing countries through partnership with excellent UK research and researchers;
  • provide an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

The fund is delivered via a series of national stakeholders including regional funders, such as the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). Like other Scottish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the University of Dundee receives a GCRF allocation as part of its Research Excellence Grant (REG). We use these funds to support ODA eligible research and capacity building, guided by our institutional GCRF Strategy, which priortises four cross-cutting, interdisciplinary themes:

  • Understanding and Improving Health and Wellbeing
  • Life-enhancing Creativity and Design
  • Innovating Technological Solutions to Tomorrow’s Problems
  • Promoting Social Change to Enhance Diversity, Justice and Socio-Economic Prosperity

Over the past three years, the University has made 45 internal awards, spread across 26 low and middle income countries (LMICs). A selection of highlights is listed below.

This map represents where the University of Dundee projects are taking place.

Frequently asked questions

University of Dundee researchers can find out more about how to get involved in research for development, including a list current funding opportunities, at the UoD Global Challenges Sharepoint site
 

Alastair Strickland

Global Challenges Research Fund Partnerships Manager

a.strickland@dundee.ac.uk

SFC-funded GCRF projects

Below are some examples of University of Dundee projects funded via the Scottish Funding Council’s Global Challenge Research Fund allocation.

Academics involved: Gordon Simpson, Geoff Barton

Partners affiliated: African Orphan Crops Consortium; Rajiv Ghandi Biotechnology Centre, Kerela, India; University of Malaya, Malaysia

SDGs addressed: No Poverty; Zero Hunger; Good Health and Well-Being; Life on Land.

Summary of project: Many indigenous crops in low and middle income countries (LMICs) are classified as “neglected” or “orphan” crops. Orphan crops may be regionally important but rarely play a significant role in global trade. As a result, they are often poorly studied, and consequently, their potential to enhance food security and maximise their commercial value, is unrealised. Knowledge-based approaches can help develop yield stability, nutritional quality, commercial value, and help crops adapt to climate change.
Utilising cutting edge Nanopore direct RNA sequencing, this project aims to transform the annotation of key orphan crop genomes, including shea, yam and black pepper. The research seeks to unlock the potential of these crops for those who depend on them. 

More information here: A new approach to revealing the complexity of RNAs that genomes really encode

Uncovering the genome sequence of the water yam orphan crop

One of the outcomes of the project has been a publication in eLife journal, which can be found here - "Nanopore direct RNA sequencing maps the complexity of Arabidopsis mRNA processing and m6A modification"

This publication is ranked as a 4* paper for REF.

 

Enquiries

Professor Gordon Simpson FRSB
Professor of Molecular Genetics and Deputy Head of Division of Plant Sciences, School of Life Sciences
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Academics involved: Jon Rogers, Sandra Wilson, Nick Taylor

Partners affiliated: Quicksand India, National Institute of Design India, Mozilla

SDGs addressed: Zero Hunger, Clean Water and Sanitation, Responsible Consumption and Production, Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Summary of project: This project aims to create a self-powered and self-sustaining global network to provide leadership in the development and implementation of trusted, localised, Internet of Things (IoT) that serves the needs of independent communities in low and middle income countries. It builds on established relationships and expertise developed through nearly ten years of collaborative research in India, Europe and the US between the University of Dundee, the National Institute of Design India (NID), the Indian design research agency Quicksand and the Mozilla Foundation. The project explores how we can harness powerful developments in emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, the voice enabled Internet, machine learning and artificial intelligence to support disempowered rural communities in India. These technologies have the potential to enable and support the growth of Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The project works with some of the poorest people in India to offer a counter-narrative, using design thinking and design-led research to build capacity around the co-creation and delivery of innovative, meaningful and desired new technologies, creating new narratives and communicating these through engaging case studies.

 

Enquiries

Professor Jon Rogers
Professor of Design and Craft, DJCAD
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Forced displacement is a critical issue globally. The UNHCR reported that, by the end of 2018, 70.8 million people were reported forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations - a record high. Rising refugee populations are of significant concern in regions where mounting tensions have led to outbreaks of insurgency due to political, economic, religious, ethnic and social pressures. Most displaced people live regions with the highest levels of poverty and inequality. Protracted displacement has become the norm in many areas suffering sustained conflict, with some states existing in a cycle of perpetual crises.
This research explores how population displacement in East Africa impacts environmental degradation in Uganda and the subsequent development of sustainable livelihoods. The project is working to: (i) understand the various ways in which refugees and nationals living in or around new and long-term refugee settlements interact with the environment and ecosystem services; (ii) explore the variety of knowledge (indigenous, cultural, social and economic) and needs (shelter, food, water, sanitation) of refugee and local households for understanding how the environment is used; (iii) examine the nature and extent of environmental degradation (loss of forests/fragmentation and soil degradation) in different camp settlements; (iv) offer recommendations for the management of increasing pressure on land resources within sustainable livelihood practices for development and policy programming.

 

Enquiries

Professor Mark Cutler
Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Social Sciences
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Professor Lorraine van Blerk
Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Social Sciences
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The project aims to address the challenges of identifying the large number of human remains that are expected to be excavated in Syria (i.e. mass graves). The main challenges that will be considered are the lack of ante-mortem records, the massive destruction of infrastructure, and the struggle of local authorities to cope with the logistical challenges of collecting and organizing information about the bodies recovered and providing it to families searching for missing or dead relatives. Approaching that will be conducted by:

(1) evaluating the Syrian situation (2) exploring the literature addressing the identification in previous conflict zones (3) setting up protocols and strategies. The outcome would be then universalised and introduced to experts in and beyond Syria. Two main fields of expertise (Forensic Odontology and Craniofacial Reconstruction) will be employed in this regard to help address the problem of missing persons.

Read more: Refugee dentist's tool to help identify the dead

Enquiries

Professor Stewart Fleming
Supervisor
Professor of Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pathology, School of Medicine
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Professor Scheila Manica
Supervisor
Clinical Lecturer, School of Dentistry
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Ethiopia is endowed with ethnic, cultural and geographic diversity, which combined with early agricultural domestication and isolation of the farming community from trade routes, has resulted in a unique genetic diversity of its major and minor crops (Leur and Gebre, 2003). Barley is one of the most important and oldest cultivated crops in the world ranking fourth after maize, rice and wheat while it is the fifth most important crop in Ethiopia after teff, maize, wheat and sorghum.  Ethiopia takes a 19% share of the African barley cultivated area only behind Morocco, which is the largest barley producer in the continent with 40% share in area cultivated. Ethiopia’s productivity is 1.6 times higher than the African average tonnes per hectare (FAOSTAT, 2017; CSA, 2018). Barley supports more than 4 million households (about 20 million people) being the major source of food and income particularly in the highland and marginal environments.

The research will first explore the genetic diversity available within a collection of around 300 geo-referenced landraces from across Ethiopia and Eritrea using a combination of phenotypic assessment and state of the art genetic marker technology (50K SNP chip; Bayer et al., 2017). This will provide the starting point to identify novel variation associated with important traits that could be used to make improvements in Ethiopian barleys. Ultimately, I hope to be able to utilise genetic markers for Marker Assisted Selection in breeding programmes that I aim to transfer back to Ethiopia at the end of my studies.

Read more: Focus on Ehtiopian barley for improved livelihoods

Enquiries

Professor Robbie Waugh
Supervisor
Personal Chair of Crop Genomics, School of Life Sciences
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Professor Claire Halpin
Supervisor
Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences
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This PhD explores the situations of older people during times of conflict and protracted crises. Using Uganda as a case study, the research will examine how they survive as refugees. Also, this project aims to understand the variety of survival strategies for, and potential impacts on, the secure futures of older people. As a final outcome, the research will seek to inform humanitarian and development policy for working across the lifecourse and supporting secure, healthy and sustainable futures for older people affected by refugee crises. As an ongoing issue throughout the world, findings of this research could have a tangible impact on refugees and could be truly transformative.

Enquiries

Professor Lorraine van Blerk
Supervisor
Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Social Sciences
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Professor Timothy Croudace
Supervisor
Professor of Nursing, School of Health Sciences
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Pettah is the busiest part of Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. It is a Masculine City where time and space are constrained for women and other individuals who do not conform with the Masculine attributes as defined in Pettah and in general. However, women and people of marginal groups are not only passive victims in this masculine city but also survivors with agency. To survive in a masculine space, women and the non-conforming individuals negotiate and familiarise with the spaces. The familiarisation process is two way; people in marginal groups change themselves to conform with the space as well as they change certain aspects of the spaces to match their needs (Perera, 2015). Therefore, this research would further study how familiarisation and negotiation process by people of marginal groups transforms spaces in Pettah into more inclusive spaces for all. This study applies Actor Network Theory to understand the complex power dynamics and associations among actors and networks of Pettah.

Enquiries

Professor Fiona Kumari Campbell
Supervisor
Professor of Social Work, School of Education and Social Work
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Dr Andrea Rodriguez
Supervisor
Senior Research Fellow, School of Dentistry
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Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes severe diarrheal disease in immunocompromised adults and young children, especially those under the age of two and who are malnourished. A recent epidemiological survey conducted in Ghana concluded that cryptosporidiosis is a leading cause of diarrheal disease in children in the population. The University of Dundee is working, in collaboration with Ghanaian partners, to build capacity to study this disease in Ghanaian laboratories, and to better characterise the strains of Cryptosporidium present in Ghana.

More info here: Pawlowic Lab

Dundee experience to help Ghanaian scientist tackle parasite

Enquiries

Dr Mattie Pawlowic
Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery, School of Life Sciences
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Growing up on the Streets is an award-winning longitudinal, participatory research project, exploring the lives of street-connected youth, in three African cities: Accra in Ghana, Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Harare, in Zimbabwe. The project generated an impressive dataset documenting these experiences. This follow-up project provides three Africa early career researchers the opportunity to interrogate this dataset further and develop research skills. Under the guidance of project co-lead, Prof Lorraine van Blerk, these scholars will help translate the findings from Growing up on the Streets into practice and policy focused on poverty reduction, reduced inequalities and sustainable livelihoods for homeless young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers will focus on areas that cross-cut with UN Sustainable Development Goals around good health and well-being, gender equality and partnerships. 

 

Enquiries

Professor Lorraine van Blerk
Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Social Sciences
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The ongoing civil war in Syria is a humanitarian disaster which has devastated Syrian agriculture and scientific capacity. Academics have fled, including crop scientists, and important agricultural research has stopped. This project enables displaced Syrian barley crop scientists to continue their research in safety while upskilling their training in the genetic control of crop traits, supported by Dundee’s world-class barley genomics expertise. Their research will investigate climate-stress resiliency in barley, a major Syrian crop. This work underpins sustainable Syrian agriculture by both directly engaging Syrian scientists and revealing routes to sustainable barley cultivation.

Enquiries

Dr Sarah McKim
Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellow
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Paper sludge disposal presents major environmental and financial problem to the South African pulp and paper industry. These wastes are traditionally incinerated or disposed in landfill. However, such disposal is now discouraged due to environmental associated environmental impacts, such as emission of greenhouse gases and toxic leaching. Preliminary parallel research at University of Dundee’s Concrete and Material Research Group (CMRG) and the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa) suggest that both waste paper sludge (WPS) and waste paper sludge ash (WPSA), are potentially suitable as ingredients in the manufacture of blended cements and in construction. These studies indicate promising environmental and economic benefits, but also a rich potential to develop of new cement-based products with enhanced performance.

Enquiries

Dr Matteo Ciantia
Lecturer in Civil Engineering, School of Science and Engineering
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Growing antimicrobial resistance, demands the urgent development of new medicines. For millennia, humans have relied on plants for medicine and many of the moat widely used pharameuticals today are derived from natural products. Yet, the medicinal potential of many natural products remain untapped.
In Ghana, a key research interest is the identification and isolation of active ingredients from traditional remedies. Through this collaboration, researchers from the University of Dundee’s internationally renownd Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) are working with colleagues at the University of Ghana to help charactersise and isolate natural products. The compounds will then assayed against a variety of pathogens which predominantly affect low and middle income countries, including Plasmodium falciparum (malaria), Leishmania donovani (visceral leishmaniasis) and Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas’ disease), in order to identify potential drug targets for new medicines. 

Enquiries

Professor Ian Gilbert FRSC
Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Head of the Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery
School of Life Sciences
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This project explored the alignment between scientific practice and practices taught to STEM teachers in Southeast Asia. An international research team, comprising researchers from Scotland, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand explored teacher education developed to boost the supply of qualified STEM teachers. The research considered in particular, the effectiveness of modelling - a common scientific practice - and how it is taught for future science teachers in Southeast Asia. The team drew upon a pedagogical framework known as model-based inquiry, to inform teachers about this scientific practice.

Read more here: Improving STEM education in Southeast Asia

Enquiries

Prof Samia Khan
Professor in Education, School of Education and Social Work
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Rice is crucial to the food security and agricultural economy of Vietnam, providing 80% of carbohydrates and 40% of protein in the average Vietnamese diet. Rice production is threatened by diseases such as bacterial leaf blight and rice blast that cause yield losses of up to 70%. Such diseases are exacerbated by climate change. Breeding resistant rice varieties is possible, but doing this quickly and efficiently requires modern genetic knowledge and technology. This project will provide such knowledge and technology, generating genetic markers for disease resistance (and other traits previously investigated) that can be used to improve Vietnam rice breeding and ultimately improve food security and livelihoods in Vietnam.

 

Enquiries

Professor Claire Halpin FRSE FRSB
Professor of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences
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Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death. Exposure to pollution has been associated with higher perinatal death rates and the development of diseases in adulthood, with populations of low and middle income countries (LMICs) at highest risk of exposure. This project aimed to build on the research strengths of the collaborating teams in environmental toxicology, epidemiology (Chulabhorn Research Institute) and in laboratory models of toxicity (Dundee). The researchers sought to exploit the reporter models of toxicity to investigate the effects of environmental exposure to arsenic – a major contaminant in Thailand. These models have to identify biomarkers to measure levels of arsenic exposure in populations living in different environments.

 

Enquiries

Professor Roland Wolf
Systems Medicine, School of Medicine
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This engagement sought to develop a network to further collaborative research on the pressing of global challenge of high maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, specifically in India. It culminated in a 2 day workshop in New Dehli, drawing 28 participants from across 12 institutions. The event provided the opportunity to explore research priorities and identify a number of critical research questions for further investigation. It also afforded researchers from the University of Dundee’s Mother and Infant Research Unit’s (MIR) the opportunity to undertake field visits to gain a deeper understanding of the context of health services in India, and develop further dialogue with key Indian partners outside the workshop.
The engagement builds on MIR’s world-leading expertise in maternal and neonatal health, including leadership of the Lancet Series of Midwifery (LSM). The LSM provides an evidence-informed framework for quality midwifery services.

Enquiries

Prof Alison McFadden
Professor in Nursing, School of Health Sciences
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Professor Colin Palmer, School of Medicine, University of DundeeProfessor Colin Palmer in the School of Medicine’s Division of Molecular and Clinical Medicine has partnered with the largest clinical network of diabetes care in India, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialist Centres, to develop a stratified approach to treating diabetes in India. How diabetes develops, how patients respond to medications, and the causes of medical populations differ between populations and most existing data is derived from studies on white European ancestry populations. Together, Professor Palmer and Dr Mohan have access to clinical datasets amounting in total to over 650,000 patients with diabetes in Scotland and India, with continuous data spanning over 20 years. The in-depth study aims to identify different subtypes of diabetes in India and understand how best to manage them. In addition, the work will develop improved screening, providing valuable insights into how more cost-effective and affordable diagnosis and treatment of diabetes can be delivered in the UK, India and globally.

Read more: £7m to establish Scotland-India partnership to tackle diabetes

Inspired Website

Professor Lorraine van Blerk, School of Social Sciences, University of DundeeSocial Geographer Professor Lorraine van Blerk employs an innovative, youth-led, qualitative approach in research projects in several countries in Africa and the Middle East, designed to maximise the input of children and youth as both investigators and participants in research about their lives. By ensuring a strong voice from youth at each key stage, Professor Van Blerk’s work with young refugees in Jordan and Uganda shows how youth experience and navigate pathways to adulthood when growing up in situations of protracted crises, in order to inform policy and development programming. In Ghana, DRC and Zimbabwe, working with teams in the three countries, Growing Up on the Streets created a network of over 200 street children and youth, 18 of whom acted as research assistants, gathering information on the lives of their peers. With over 3,000 interviews and focus groups, it forms the largest ever database of the lives of young street people. In addition to this work with young refugees and those living on the street, Prof Van Blerk also works with rural youth in Malawi and Lesotho to generate evidence about effects social cash transfer (SCT) schemes, which disburse cash to poor people, in intervening in and potentially transforming the structural power relations that underlie the reproduction of poverty.

Read more about Growing Up in Protracted Crises, Growing Up on the Streets, and Social Cash Transfers, Generational Relations and Youth Poverty Trajectories.

The University’s Division of Plant Sciences is an internationally recognised centre for molecular plant science with research central to facing global challenges of food security, renewable energy, and climate change. Current work includes a collaboration with colleagues at the University of York using cutting edge plant genomic approaches to develop varieties of rice with better straw quality and lower silica content for energy production and animal feed. The project is led by the University of York in collaboration with Professors Claire Halpin and Robbie Waugh at Dundee and a number of research partners in Vietnam and the Philippines. Professors Halpin and Waugh are also engaged in research activities with partners in North Africa with the aim of growing research capacity in barley to address food security.