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Evaluation of The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – Foundation Stage

The Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF), run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is a £1.5billion fund to ensure that the UK’s world-leading research base takes a major role in working collaboratively to address the problems faced by developing countries and in pioneering new ways to tackle global problems.



The GCRF will achieve this through supporting challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, strengthening capacity for research and innovation within developing countries and providing an agile response to emergencies, where there is an urgent research need. The primary delivery partners (DPs) for the GCRF are the Research Councils, the National Academies and the UK Space Agency.

The GCRF will mobilise the UK’s research base in close partnership with academic and non-academic partners worldwide to address key challenges facing developing countries. This will occur through supporting disciplinary and interdisciplinary challenge-led research, which will strengthen capacity for research and innovation within developing countries and the UK, and provide agile responses to emergencies, where there is an urgent research need. GCRF funding will include support for research on global issues affecting developing countries such as emerging threats to animal and plant health; flooding and famine resulting from climate change; and health research programmes, including vaccines and viral threat.

Our role

BEIS has selected Itad, with the support of Technopolis and the Policy Institute of Kings College London, to deliver the Foundation stage of the evaluation of GCRF. This entails developing a Theory of Change (ToC) for the GCRF, conducting a process evaluation of initial activities and then, building on this work, designing an evaluation strategy and framework for 2018-2022. The purpose of the foundation study is to enable an international best practice evaluation of GCRF which includes seeking to build a shared sense of ownership by BEIS and the delivery partners of the theory of change and the performance criteria.

Our approach

A team of high-level specialists, led by an Itad partner, is delivering the evaluation, which is made up of three components:

  • Create a framework: The team has built on an initial ToC, developed by BEIS and DPs, to provide a framework for assessing progress and achievements, mapped the causal chain of events and assumptions that underpin GCRF, and ensured that DPs share a common understanding of GCRF’s intended logic, aims and objectives. As well as providing the basis for a common understanding of GCRF, the ToC underpins the evaluation strategy and framework.
  • Process evaluation: To examine how GCRF priorities have been progressed in terms of the types of activity, thematic focus and geographies of partnerships launched to date; explore how the calls have operated in practice, gathering lessons learned to feed into the evolution of GCRF policy and the design of future calls. This analysis is based on evaluation questions which cover the six main components of GCRF.
  • Overall evaluation strategy: The design of an overarching evaluation strategy which sets out an approach for a robust, feasible, and proportionate evaluation that will establish the extent to which the goal of GCRF has been achieved. This will also assess whether GCRF is delivered in a way that represents value for money. The overall strategy will also develop an associated evaluation framework by highlighting overarching questions, methods and data sources and judgement criteria that will guide data collection and assessment.


Contact Chris Barnett ( if you would like to discuss this project.


Image © Growing as a community in rural DRC. Photo Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)