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Building foundations for development impact in large scale research funds

Assessing how the Global Challenges Research Fund created the environment for impact in its early years and achieve sustainable development challenges.


The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is an ambitious, large-scale fund that aims to develop solutions to complex sustainable development challenges through pioneering research and innovation. Working with RAND Europe, AFIDEP, Athena Infonomics, Niras-LTS and Digital Science, we are conducting a five-year evaluation of GCRF.

These publications focuses on our 2020-21 evaluation question: Is GCRF relevant, well-targeted, fair, gender-sensitive, socially inclusive and well-managed?

Through this, we explore how GCRF focused on creating the foundations for outcomes and impact in its early years, and how these foundations positioned the fund to deliver on its intended impact and objectives.

Synthesis report and review of evaluation
Fairness in GCRF: Module report
Fariness in GCRF: Annexes
Relevance and Coherence in GCRF: Module report
Relevant and Coherence in GCRF: Annexes
Gender Equality, Social Inclusion and Poverty in GCRF: Module report
Gender Equality, Social Inclusion and Poverty in GCRF: Annexes

Our findings

Our evaluation concludes that GCRF has made clear progress in establishing the foundations for development impact (becoming relevant, coherent, well-targeted, fair, gender-sensitive and socially inclusive), especially in its largest flagship programmes.

However, inherent challenges in the fund’s size and complicated delivery architecture meant that progress varied across the portfolio and important gaps remained at all levels of the fund, especially around managing for development impact and addressing poverty through the portfolio.

About GCRF

The GCRF was launched in 2016 by the UK government with £1.5 billion of funding over ten years to spur progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through partnerships between the UK and institutions in low- and middle-income countries.

GCRF will run until March 2025, making it an unusually long-term commitment of ODA funds for research. The fund is innovative in its scope and has ambitions for its diverse research and innovation portfolio to contribute to material development impact at scale in the countries where it is working.

GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance commitment. The fund is managed by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).