UCL Grand Challenges


New 2020/21 funding calls announced

9 December 2020

UCL Grand Challenges’ Special Initiatives and Doctoral Small Grants schemes are now open for applications.

UCL Grand Challenges Special Initatives

Funding applicants can apply for a maximum of £2,500 under the Doctoral scheme, and up to £10,000 for the Special Initiative calls, with spending complete by 31st July 2021. The deadline for applications for both calls is 23:59 on Wednesday 20th January 2021

Annually, UCL's Grand Challenges programme identifies major cross-cutting themes for strategic support that resonate with the priorities of all six individual grand challenge strands. For this academic year, the Special Initiatives themes are ‘Place: Equality & Prosperity’, ‘Age & Society: Life through Generations’, and ‘UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Pathways to Achievement’, in partnership with the Global Engagement Office.

Special Initiative: UN SDGs
The UN SDGs call follows on from the success of the jointly hosted two-week virtual conference Beyond Boundaries, held in October, which reached an audience of over 1,350 people from almost 60 countries. Attendees heard from a range of speakers on a numerous topics - from sustainability in a COVID-19 world, to universities and the SDGs. The UN SDGs call aims to use insights from interventions in the public and academic sessions at the of the conference, and focuses on the achievement of the Goals within the framings of ‘Wellbeing’, ‘Infrastructure’, and ‘Natural Environment’.

Special Initiative: Place
The ‘Place’ call recognises that experiences of inequalities are inextricably intertwined with place and follows Grand Challenges work focused on structural inequalities in the UK, through the Exploring Inequalities initiative with the Resolution Foundation. The theme of Place: Equality & Prosperity will support projects that adopt a “place-based” lens to allow for sharper focus on the intersection of geographies with wider structural disadvantages.

Special Initiative: Age & Society
The ‘Age & Society’ call highlights that age is also a critical lens through which to understand the complexity of our societies, and to ensure their sustainable and equitable development. It aims to support collaborations that address the relationship between the life course and individual experiences of life and wellbeing and examine issues relating to age in a wider social, political, and economic context. This work builds on previous and existing projects, including collaborations with Japanese universities, and connects with the efforts of institutes and groups at UCL addressing issues around age, such as the Age Innovation Hub.

Doctoral Small Grants Scheme
Run annually, the Doctoral Scheme is open to all UCL doctoral students, as well as Postdoctoral Research Assistants in their first appointment in partnership with a doctoral student. The call aims to connect researchers based in different UCL faculties to enable a cross-disciplinary approach to solving a societal problem related to a UCL Grand Challenge strand. 

UCL Grand Challenges Deputy Director, Dr James Paskins said: “We’re delighting to be launching these funding calls today. The diversity of the UCL community makes truly exciting cross-disciplinary research possible. Our aim with these calls is to bring experts together from across the university, and beyond, to tackle important societal problems. We’re also excited to be working with UCL’s Global Engagement Office to fund partnerships that cross geographic, as well as disciplinary, boundaries; we believe that only by approaching challenges in this holistic and collaborative way can we tackle society’s biggest problems effectively.”