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International research joins forces to meet needs of countries facing global issues

Copyright: BBSRC
News from: Global Challenges Research Fund

Leading experts from the UK and in developing countries across the world are joining forces to tackle some of the most serious global challenges in a new multidisciplinary research programme launched today.

In one of the most ambitious international research programmes ever created, £225 million has been invested across 37 interdisciplinary projects to address challenges in fields such as health, humanitarian crises, conflict, the environment, the economy, domestic violence, society, and technology.

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “From healthcare to green energy, the successful projects receiving funding today highlight the strength of the UK’s research base and our leadership in helping developing countries tackle some of the greatest global issues of our time.

“At a time when the pace of scientific discovery and innovation is quickening, we are placing science and research at the heart of our Industrial Strategy to build on our strengths and maintain our status as a science powerhouse.”

Copyright: BBSRC
Pausing on a brief tour of the Sainsbury Lab; Professor Howard Griffiths, University of Cambridge, Jo Johnson Minister for Universities and Science, Professor John Danesh, University of Cambridge and Dr Amanda Collis, BBSRC Executive Director, Science. Copyright: BBSRC

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive designate of UK Research and Innovation, said: “In the same way that facing these global challenges requires a multi-national response, finding the solutions to them requires researchers from many disciplines to work together. The Global Challenges Research Fund makes that possible, and means that the UK’s world-leading researchers are able to get on with the job of working with each other and partners across the globe to make the world and society more sustainable.”

Andrew Thompson, RCUK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Champion, said: “The ambition is to lay the foundations for a sustained and targeted research effort to address the most intractable challenges faced by the world today, climate change, disease and epidemics, food insecurity, rapid urbanisation, and forced displacement and protracted conflict.”

GCRF Research Councils UK Collective Fund is supporting projects in the range of £2-8 million over four years. It will build upon research knowledge in the UK, and strengthen capacity overseas, to help address challenges, informed by an expressed need in developing countries.

“The announcement of this international multidisciplinary programme ensures we will continue to build capacity both in the UK and in developing countries, and that our collaborative research partnership will be strengthened so together we can work to tackle the challenges faced by developing countries,” said Dr Amanda Collis, BBSRC Executive Director, Science.

Projects consist of UK and developing-country researchers, working together as equal partners. Several BBSRC-led projects focus on animal health, sustainable food systems and preserving biodiversity. The funded project titles are listed below:

  • How animal health affects humans
  • Designing climate smart policy for growth
  • Research and empowerment for sustainable food supplies
  • Capacity building for bioinformatics in Latin America
  • Safeguarding the future of seaweed aquaculture in developing countries
  • Preserving, restoring and managing Colombian biodiversity
  • Biopharmaceutical and animal vaccine production in Thailand and beyond.

Case study

Biopharmaceutical and animal vaccine production in Thailand and beyond, Professor Colin Robinson - University of Kent

A revolution in biotechnology is bringing us new types of drugs for diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer. Recombinant Protein Technology involves joining different pieces of DNA together in a cell such as a bacterium, inducing it to make particular proteins that can form the basis for advanced medicines and vaccines.

In Thailand it is thought that only 2% of cancer sufferers have access to medicines derived from this technology, even though the WHO lists them as “minimum medicine needs for a basic health system”. The Thai government has recently set up a biopharmaceutical facility. The goal of this GCRF project is to join UK and Thai experts to work towards state-of-the art protein production in Thailand. They will also work on the associated downstream activity, such as standards testing, with the goal of making cheap, widely available medicines.

Although the work will be in Thailand, there are structures built in to spread the expertise to other countries in South East Asia such as Vietnam and Myanmar. And biopharmaceutical companies in the UK should also be able to benefit from the insights learned from trying to drive production costs as low as possible.

More details on each of the 37 grants can be found in the Growing research capability to meet the challenges faced by developing countries (PDF) handbook.

For further details on exact elements on the projects, please contact the associated institution’s press team.


About the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund that supports cutting-edge research which addresses the global issues faced by developing countries. It harnesses the expertise of the UK’s world-leading researchers, focusing on: funding challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research; strengthening capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange; and providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need. It forms part of UK government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through 17 delivery partners including the research councils, the UK academies, the UK Space Agency and funding bodies.


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £473 million in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.

Tags: policy GCRF global challenges research funding BBSRC press release