UK Research Councils tackle global challenges

Global research challenges include ensuring a safe, nutritious and sustainable supply of food for a growing population

Five of the UK Research Councils have announced the first calls from the new £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Worth more than £40 million, the new calls are in non-communicable diseases, global infection and agriculture and food systems. Specific challenges include reducing and preventing diseases in humans and farmed animals; ensuring a safe, nutritious and sustainable supply of food for a growing population; and improving the life-long health of billions of people in low and middle income countries.

The funding comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) the Medical Research Council (MRC), with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Science minister Jo Johnson, said: “Our £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund represents the latest stage in our sustained investment in the UK’s world-leading scientists. This new £40 million fund is part of our commitment to tackle global issues such as food security and life-threatening diseases like Ebola, and will help improve quality of life for people in developing nations as well as here in the UK.”

Prof Melanie Welham, BBSRC chief executive, said: “The UK research-base has a vital role to play in helping to improve the quality of peoples’ lives across the world. Challenges around disease prevention, energy and food supply and conflict resolution pose a threat to us all – no matter where we live. BBSRC is delighted to be working in collaboration with many partners to ensure our community maximise the potential of the new Global Challenges Research Fund.”

Prof Sir John Savill, chief executive, MRC said: “These new awards will accelerate the linkage of excellent UK-based research to the wider sphere of our global health research, covering new areas in infections, and vitally, extending our work in non-communicable diseases. By fostering cross-Council initiatives such as this, we are able to harness the expertise of researchers in very different fields in interdisciplinary relationships.”

Overarching global challenges identified by the Research Councils include: health, clean energy, sustainable agriculture, conflict and humanitarian action and foundations for economic development. Additional calls are due to be announced in the near future.