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).

The fund has been created to address complex societal challenges by developing countries through:

  • 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.

GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment, which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

GCRF Case Studies

Below are some examples of the excellent transformative research taking place in Dundee and with research partners globally to address known Global Challenges. We are working towards sustainable health and wellbeing for all, to promote peace, justice, and humanitarian action worldwide.

Global Challenges Research Fund Strengthens Development-Related Research Portfolio

Fifteen development-related University research projects have recently been awarded funding as part of an internal competition to enhance and strengthen capacity in research relevant to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The competition, coordinated by Research and Innovation Services (RIS), invited applications from all schools across the University to apply for funds that would enable them to address global challenges in areas prioritised by GCRF and categorised as the University’s ‘Strategy to 2022’ thematic strengths‌

RIS received a substantial volume of applications and the successfully funded projects will feed into the University’s overarching mission of transforming lives locally and globally by addressing key environmental and human-made issues arising within the following four 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
  • The competition offered a series of categorised awards including Pump Priming, Academic Exchanges, Pilot Projects, Grand Challenge Programme Grants and Global PhD opportunities.  

The successfully funded projects aim to enhance the quality and impact of global research in priority regions such as India, Pakistan, China, Africa, Middle East, South East Asia and South America, subsequently allowing the University to strengthen international relationships and nurture partnerships with in-country institutions.  A number of the projects also aim to develop the skills of Early Career Researchers, both in Dundee and at partnering institutions.

Prof John Rowan, Vice-Principal (Research, Knowledge Exchange and Wider Impact) and Chair of the GCRF Steering Group set up to review the applications said: “The University has a broad portfolio of excellent, well-established and impactful development-related research.  This batch of successfully funded projects feeds into that portfolio and aims to develop and implement solutions for a wide range of multidisciplinary issues; from working with rural communities in India to design their digital futures, to the development of policies that foster sustainable livelihood activities which protect environments and meet the needs of displaced communities in East Africa.  They offer a myriad of opportunities for us to enhance the quality of our research, strengthen our international relations, and most importantly to convert excellent ideas into impact.

The University of Dundee has the fourth highest proportion of research grant income to total income of any UK University and are one of Europe’s most innovate universities (Reuters 2017).

For more information please contact:

Alastair Strickland

Global Challenges Development Fund Partnerships Manager


A stratified approach to diabetes in India

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

Displaced communities youth transitions and social cash transfers in Africa and the Middle East

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.

Child trauma recovery in war-torn contexts

Professor Ian Barron, School of Education and Social Work, University of DundeeDr Ian Barron from the School of Education and Social Work specialises in trauma recovery for children living in war affected regions of the Middle East. A programme of trauma recovery research in Dundee, working closely with partners in Palestine, identified and quantified the different types of traumatic events children experience under military occupation in Palestine, and has directly improved psycho-trauma assessment and intervention for over 6000 children. Locally-based councellors are trained to deliver culture-specific programmes for children experiencing complex and traumatic grief as a consequence of war. These changes in psycho-trauma recovery have also been developed and implemented throughout Gaza (impacting on around 5,000 children), across the West Bank (around 1,000 children), and into other Middle East countries (Jordan and Egypt; around 200 children). This research has also led to the delivery of trauma recovery programmes for maltreated children in Scotland’s Secure Estate.

Read more: Child trauma recovery in war-torn contexts

Medical Education Research in Malawi

The University’s Medical School has a long-standing educational partnerships link to the College of Medicine (COM) in Malawi, a link initially developed within the Medicine in Malawi electives programme (MIMP). The COM is the only Government Medical School in Malawi, and is part of the University of Malawi. These strong educational links are now being actively developed into a research partnership aimed at building capacity in medical research, and the eventual development of a regional centre of excellence for medical education research in Blantyre.

Disaster risk management - tunnels and seismic movement

Dr Jonathan Knappett, School of Science & EngineeringCivil Engineer Dr Jonathan Knappett specialises in seismic soil-structure interaction and is currently working collaboratively with the University of Leeds and Pontifical Catholic Uni of Valparaiso, Chile, to understand the behaviour of tunnels under repeated seismic loading. The project involves the design and installation of a monitoring system in two tunnels in Chile with the intention of fundamentally redefining our understanding of the behaviour of tunnels under repeated seismic loading and develop novel disaster management strategies. The collaboration makes use of the University of Dundee’s 120g-ton capacity geotechnical beam centrifuge with earthquake simulation capability, one of only three such facilities in Europe.

Read more

Sustainable water management in Peninsular India

Professor John Rowan, Dean of School of Social SciencesProfessor John Rowan in the School of Social Sciences conducts research into one of the most pressing natural resource issues in Peninsular India: how rapid economic development and population growth impacts water security through widespread changes in land-use, water management and water demand. Working with local partners the Indian Institute for Science and the Ashoka Trust for Research in the Ecology and Environment, a current project will explore how changes in land use, land-cover and small scale water management interventions locally affect hydrological processes, then develop novel upscaling methods to represent this understanding in models at the larger scale to enable the representation of the cumulative impact of abundant small scale changes in basin-wide integrated water resource management tools.

Read more

Synthesis and analytical aspects of new psychoactive substances

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Forensic ScienceThe global phenomenon of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and emerging new drugs poses a significant challenge to law enforcement, forensic scientists and healthcare professionals at national and international levels who must respond to their use and effects. China and increasingly India are frequently identified as significant manufacturing sites for NPS and other related substances with increases in production also noted in other countries in Asia as well as Mexico, with associated unknown environmental impact through the production of toxic waste products.  We are also in a new era of illicit drug distribution which is increasingly fragmented with substances ordered over the Internet overtly, or covertly via the dark web, to be delivered in the post to the doorstep.  A new interdisciplinary project led by Prof Nic Daeid and Dr McKenzie works in partnership with colleagues in the Drug Discovery Unit and Neuropharmacology as well as with law enforcement, forensic scientists and forensic and medicinal toxicologists with the aim to address these challenges.  The Centre for excellence for NPS research is based in CAHID and will work on the development of fully validated methods for the determination of NPS and new emerging drugs either in bulk powder samples, toxicological samples or as environmental waste water samples and will translate the findings directly into impact in India and other countries.

Plant sciences and food security

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.

For more information about how you could get involved in Global Challenges at the University of Dundee, get in touch:



Alastair Strickland

Global Challenges Development Fund Partnerships Manager