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UCL Grand Challenges

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Since the 2008/9 academic year, UCL Grand Challenges has changed the way our researchers investigate some of the world's biggest problems. This is part of a larger culture of cross-disciplinary research at UCL.

What is UCL Grand Challenges?


UCL Grand Challenges is an initiative of the UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) that seeks to bring UCL’s academic expertise to bear on pressing societal challenges by integrating knowledge and evidence from across disciplines.  

The programme brings together researchers from across UCL and beyond - setting the agenda for future research and building bridges with external partners. Over the last decade, we have facilitated hundreds of new connections between researchers from across the university, at all levels. 

> Read our impact reports
> Learn more about our partnerships 

View the six Grand Challenges​ →

Our approach


UCL Grand Challenges is based on the premise that solutions to the greatest challenges rarely come from one field alone. Therefore, a large part of our work involves bringing researchers from diverse disciplines together with colleagues who possess knowledge outside their areas of expertise to test new ideas, build partnerships, and collaborate.

We also encourage collaboration with external organisations - both academic and non-academic, including charities, industry, third sector organisations and local authorities - to exchange knowledge and achieve impacts across all sectors of society. 

Alongside running our own Grand Challenge-led initiatives, we award seed corn grants to UCL researchers and doctoral students, fund strategic projects, organise and support events and academic roundtables, establish and build partnerships, and provide a platform for innovative, ‘disruptive’ thinking via our podcasts and blog – all achieved through working closely with colleagues across the university and beyond. 

Our impacts


Through the cross-disciplinary research that Grand Challenges facilitates, new approaches can emerge; in this way, our small interventions have a significant impact. 

> Learn more about our impact and outputs  
> Learn more about our funded projects
> Learn more about our partnerships

Our priorities  


Centred around collaborations at the local, national, and global scales and with the aim of helping to address the most challenging issues of our time, the Grand Challenges programme focuses on strategic priority themes each year. Our work also broadly aligns with the themes and ethos of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we work closely with the UCL SDGs Initiative.   

> View our Priority Themes

Who we work with


As well as the work of each Grand Challenge being advised by a Working Group, we also work closely with the Grand Challenges Advisory Group - with a senior representative from each faculty – and the Grand Challenges Executive Board to build our picture of UCL’s research strengths, advise on strategic priorities, augment our activities and identify new opportunities. 

> Learn more about our Working Groups, Advisory Group and Executive Board 

Across UCL  


We work in close partnership with academics drawn from right across UCL as well as professional services staff, including: 

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