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Evaluation of the Global Challenges Research Fund

We are assessing how successfully the Global Challenges Research Fund is achieving its aims, delivering impact and achieving value for money


What is the Global Challenges Research Fund?

The Global Challenges Research (GCFR) is a £1.5 billion fund designed to create knowledge and drive innovation to address poverty.

It seeks to advance cutting-edge, world-class research that promotes social inclusion, economic growth and environmental sustainability in partner countries.

The Fund achieves this by supporting challenge-led, interdisciplinary research and by growing the research and innovation capacity of the UK and developing countries in a range of disciplines, including:

  • Health and wellbeing
  • Inclusive and equitable education
  • Resilient food systems
  • Sustainable energy

Funds are allocated through the UK’s existing research system, including UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the research councils, academies, higher education funding councils and the UK Space Agency.

The GCRF supports research in a range of disciplines, including resilient food systems

Our role

We have supported the GCRF since its foundation stage, and are now leading a consortium to provide evidence and lessons on whether GCRF is relevant, fair, well-targeted and well-managed.

Our role is broken down into two core contracts:

  1. Foundational Stage, including: theory of change (ToC), process evaluation and evaluation strategy and framework
  2. Five-year impact evaluation

Project: Developing indicators for the UK aid spend on research and innovation (GCRF and Newton Fund)

Our approach

Foundational stage

We built on an original ToC developed by BEIS and delivery partners to:

  • Provide a framework for assessing progress and achievements
  • Map the causal chain of events and assumptions that underpin GCRF
  • Ensure that DPs share a common understanding of GCRF’s intended logic, aims and objectives.
  • Underpin the evaluation strategy and framework

We also conducted a process evaluation of GCRF’s initial activities to examine how its priorities had progressed and gather lessons to feed into the evolution of GCRF policy and design.

Following this, we designed 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. The strategy also helps guide date collection and assessment.

This work was completed in partnership with Technopolis and the Policy Institute of Kings College London.

Five-year evaluation

We are currently leading a consortium to undertake a five-year assessment of GCRF using the strategy developed previously.

Our evaluation aims to:

  • Provide evidence and lessons on whether the GCFR is relevant, fair, well-targeted and well-managed
  • Consider the extent to which over 2,000 research awards and signature initiatives (HubsFuture LeadersFLAIR Fellowships, etc) have contribute to the UK and partner countries’ ability to deliver cutting edge research on global challenges.

The mixed-method, theory-based evaluation deploys innovative techniques including data science.

Our consortium partners are: RAND Europe, AFIDEP (African Institute for Development Policy) in Kenya, Athena Infonomics in India, and Digital Science in the UK.