Incubators for Global Challenges Research Fund


The Division is seeking new proposals for research initiatives aligned with the Global Challenges Research Fund themes (GCRF). This uses the Incubator themes model as a method for ensuring broad engagement and development of research capability, specifically to address these important themes. These will be led by academics with permanent academic/research appointments in the Social Sciences Division, interested in driving the development of interdisciplinary research collaborations with colleagues both outside their own department at Oxford, and in other universities. Funding of between £40,000 and £60,000 is available per GCRF-theme Incubator, for coordination, networking and development activities. It is likely that the division will make 1-3 awards.

Purpose of the call

The Division’s research strategy aims to build on Oxford’s multiple disciplinary strengths and improve the Division's collaborative research capacity in order to encourage the development of cutting edge research and to enhance our success with multidisciplinary research funding awards.

The focus of the GCRF is complex societal challenges which will require an interdisciplinary approach, making the social sciences central to delivering this global agenda. This fund, available from 2016-2020, is worth £1.5bn (for information click GCRF). It is therefore strategically important to enable Oxford’s Social Sciences researchers to position themselves optimally to respond to these calls, enabling multi-disciplinary and multi-partner research activity on this scale. For this reason, SSD have made the strategic decision to use the Fell incubator theme funding to develop research capability and collaborations in this area, to maximise benefit from the GCRF funding stream.


These challenge areas are being developed in consultation with the DfID, reflecting feedback from international partners, other global stakeholders and experience working within developing country contexts. Crucially, as GCRF aims to address development challenges, the research undertaken and delivered through this funding must fall within the definition of Overseas Development Assistance, defined as “research directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA. The costs may still be counted as ODA if the research is carried out in a developed country.” The challenge areas are still to be confirmed later in the Summer, so do please monitor developments on the RCUK page (RCUK). 

  • Health: To tackle diseases, strengthen health systems and reach the worlds’ most vulnerable.
  • Clean Energy: To provide access to clean energy, including new technologies and the behavioural insights required for successful introduction to developing countries.
  • Sustainable Agriculture: To improve nutrition and food security, support technological innovation, and increase resilience to climate change.
  • Conflict and humanitarian action: To provide new insights and approaches for preventing conflict and violence, build stability and strengthen humanitarian action.
  • Foundations for Inclusive Growth: To understand what works best for developing countries to build the foundations for economic development - macroeconomics, institutions, innovation and private sector growth, cities and infrastructure, education systems, jobs and skills.
  • Urban Living: To enable future cities to support strong regional and national economies, in order to be resilient, with the ability to adapt and thrive in response to environmental, economic or social change.
  • Resilient Systems: To provide new insights into resilient systems for adapting to climate change, natural hazards, and future disaster anticipation.

How to apply

To ensure that researchers can respond to developments of the GCRF, this Incubator Call is now open and will close next term (Michaelmas term 2016).  The application process will be run through the termly John Fell Fund round - next deadline at noon, Wednesday 5th October, 2016. Applicants must submit their GCRF-theme Incubator, using the John Fell Fund online submission system and forms (, clearly emphasising in the title of their project that this is a “GCRF Incubator”. This will ensure that the application and assessment process follows ready-adopted processes. This highlight notice applies to both main and small award applications.

Contacts and support

For queries about research themes and support in developing your proposal, please contact Dr Sharron Pleydell-Pearce (tel: 14882).

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