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BBSRC GCRF Strategic Training Awards for Research Skills (GCRF-STARS)

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Call status: Open
Application deadline: 16 October 2019, 16:00 BST


Following on from the success of the 2017 GCRF-STARS call, BBSRC is pleased to announce a second round of GCRF STARS for strategic training awards of up to 12 months in duration to support research capability addressing current global challenges.

The purpose of this call is to build a portfolio of sustainable and timely training resources to up-skill and develop researchers, graduate students and DAC citizen in research priority areas, focussing on sustainable development addressing most significant and complex problems faced by developing countries.


The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Alongside the other GCRF delivery partners we are creating complementary programmes that:

  • 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.

GCRF is part of the government’s commitment to allocate 0.7% of the UK’s Gross National Income to Official Development Assistance for promoting the welfare and economic development of developing countries. As well as being scientifically excellent, research supported by GCRF must meet the criteria for classification of expenditure as ODA. For further information see: UK Research and Innovation: Global Challenges Research Fund.


Applications must emphasize the specific global development challenge that their proposed activity will contribute to addressing. BBSRC welcomes applications for support of any research capability within our remit, but particularly those identified within the GCRF challenge areas including the following:

  • Secure and resilient food systems supported by sustainable marine resources and agriculture
  • Sustainable health and wellbeing
  • affordable, reliable, sustainable energy
  • clean air, water and sanitation
  • Resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change
  • sustainable cities and communities
  • sustainable production and consumption of materials and other resources
  • Prevention of diseases in humans and farm animals relevant to the developing country
  • Prevention of crop disease in varieties grown in/ developed for developing countries.

Delivery of training may be achieved by one or more of the following methods:

  1. Research Experience Placements
    • Research placements for DAC citizens in UK research organisations
  2. Skills schools in strategically important and vulnerable research areas, including:
    • Development of new skills schools
    • Expansion of existing institutional/regional activities to reach low and middle income countries
    • Expansion of existing activities for participation by DAC citizens and BBSRC funded researchers at any level (PhD, postdoctoral researcher, research fellow, research leader)
  3. Development and delivery of training resources through other mechanisms, such as development of e-learning modules or other online resources


  • Full or partial PhD studentships
  • Full or partial MSc/MRes studentships: in line with other research councils, BBSRC does not provide funding for stand-alone Masters training grants
  • Conference attendance/travel bursaries: these are included within PhD studentships and research grants.

Collaborative approaches and partnerships

GCRF-STARS applications should be co-created and delivered through training partnerships between the UK partner and organisations from developing countries on the DAC list (PDF). Training may take place in the UK, the developing country, or both with the exception of Research Experience Placements (REPs) which should take place in the UK only.

Applications should include a letter from the developing country partner that describes the skills gap/ training opportunity and how the collaboration would be beneficial to researchers in that country.


A total of up to £500, 000 is available to support the training activities through this programme in the period from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. Applications may seek funding for up to £100,000 (at 100% fEC). Awards must start no earlier than 1 April 2020 and finish by the 31 March 2021 at the latest.

Directly allocated staff time, estate and indirect costs will not be covered. BBSRC will contribute towards the costs of external speakers, room bookings, time spent organising the training and other reasonable costs providing justification of resources has been received.

Official Development Assistance

All research funded through this call will form part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), as defined by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Guidance on the definition and its interpretation is provided in the OECD ‘What is ODA? (PDF)’ fact sheet and the UKRI website: Official Development Assistance: Global Challenges Research Fund Guidance (PDF).

The ODA relevance of the planned training activity should be clearly evident throughout the proposal and emphasise how it supports developing countries tackling global challenges. Proposals which are not considered to be ODA compliant will be rejected prior to peer review.

Gender equality

As part of this call, it will be mandatory for all applications to provide a Gender Equality Compliance Statement. This statement must outline how applicants have taken meaningful yet proportionate consideration as to how the project will contribute to reducing gender inequalities, as required under the 2014 International Development (Gender Equality) Act. For more information see: UK Research and Innovation: Gender Equality and International Development Research and Innovation.

How to apply

Further information about the GCRF-STARS programme and full details of how to apply can be found in the Information Pack and Je-S help text (see application downloads below).

Applications must be made through the Je-S system by 16 October 2019, 16:00 BST. Please refer to the detailed ‘Je-S help text’ application download for help with the application form.

Important: applicants should ensure applications are submitted to their institution’s submitter/approval pool a minimum of five working days in advance of the published deadline. This enables institution checks to be carried out before final submissions. Applications must be submitted using the document templates available below. Failure to use the templates will result in the application being withdrawn.

Applications must be received by 16:00 on the application deadline specified. Late applications will not be accepted.

Je-S system queries

For queries using Je-S, the helpdesk can be contacted Monday to Thursday 08:30-17:00 and Fridays 08:30-16:30 UK time (excluding bank holidays and other holidays) by email: or tel: 01793 444164 (out of hours please leave a voicemail message).

Please provide:

  • Your name, organisation and user ID
  • Date and time
  • Which part of the form or system you were working on
  • The nature of the problem.

Application downloads

GCRF-STARS: Case for support (DOCX 60KB)

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GCRF-STARS: Evidence of additional support form (DOCX 95KB)

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GCRF-STARS: Information pack (PDF 132KB)

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GCRF-STARS: Je-S help text (PDF 239KB)

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GCRF-STARS: ODA compliance questionnaire (DOCX 75KB)

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Successful applicants will be required to submit a report on completion of the training.

Related calls: skills and training GCRF