Global Challenges Research Fund

The cross-government Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) has the potential to help address major global development challenges, but risks being spread too thinly to achieve transformative results, a new ICAI review has found.

The GCRF, a research and science focused aid fund, has a budget of £1.5bn over five years, which contributes towards the government’s 0.7% aid target.

The fund falls under the authority of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and aims to ensure that UK research and science play a leading role in addressing problems faced by developing countries.

ICAI’s review found that the fund had begun to innovate in useful ways, particularly by promoting interdisciplinary work on complex challenges such as non-communicable diseases and forced displacement.

However it found that aspects of the fund’s strategy, governance arrangements, and procedures were not yet clear or strong enough, and called on it to improve its systems in order to deliver its objectives more effectively, and achieve value for money.

It praised the GCRF for its proactive approach to working with research partners – such as universities – in developing countries, but said it should be clearer about its aims in doing so and consider a more targeted approach to these partnerships.

The review found that the GCRF needs more focused objectives to achieve the transformative research impact it aspires to, as the current approach has resulted in a scattered portfolio of research projects.

ICAI said that while the practical applications from the research may take time to emerge, the fund should do more to build linkages between researchers and those who will make use of or benefit from its work.

The review called on BEIS and DFID to look into whether the funding conditions of the GCRF are consistent with the government’s commitment not to tie UK aid. And it found that processes for assuring the eligibility of some parts of GCRF funding to be counted as aid were inadequate.

Read the full review for more information.

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12 Sep 2017
Lead commissioner
Tina Fahm
Beyond aid, Economic development, Multisector
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