This call is now closed. The following is for information only.

ESRC is investing £7 million for new research grants that qualify for funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

This new call, New models of sustainable development, aims to fund new interdisciplinary and innovative research which helps us to understand how new models of economic development (broadly defined) can help address the development challenges reflected in the UN's Agenda 2030. Proposals may be submitted under two broad themes:

  • Transitions towards sustainable and inclusive societies; or
  • Decent work for all.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion funding stream to support cutting-edge research which addresses the problems faced by developing countries. GCRF forms part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment, and funding under this call will be awarded in a manner consistent with official ODA guidelines (OECD website).

We are looking for ambitious projects, investigating new avenues for research that directly engages with the new development agenda. Partnerships, whether with academics, policymakers or stakeholders, are encouraged.

Proposals are invited for research grants of between £500,000 and £800,000 at 100% full Economic Cost (fEC), and of durations between 18 to 30 months. Proposals must be led by a researcher at an eligible UK research organisation and should be submitted through the research councils' Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

Thematic focus 

Research proposals should fall within the following broad themes:

Transitions towards sustainable and inclusive societies

For all developing countries, there is a need to manage advances in wellbeing, equity and economic growth alongside the challenges of climate change, biodiversity and cleaner energy and air. Are there models or approaches to economic development that offer new insights into supporting sustainable, equitable growth? What potential do alternative models of production and distribution offer, and how can innovation best be encouraged and supported through appropriate institutional, legal and regulatory frameworks? 

Decent work for all

Goal 8 of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals cites 'decent work for all' as an integral part of the challenge of sustainable growth. The aim of Goal 8 is to ensure not only that sufficient employment is created, but also that work is productive, fairly remunerated and meets minimum standards in terms of security and prospects for personal development. Creating the conditions to achieve this raises fundamental challenges in terms of raising investment, productivity and competitiveness in lower income countries. This in turn relates to issues such as training and education, labour market regulation, and the capacity of the state to encourage and support enterprise, investment and innovation on the one hand whilst ensuring appropriate employment standards and social security support on the other. 

Further information on the themes can be found within the call specification.

Potential applicants may wish to note that the ESRC is planning to announce another GCRF call focused on education and skills in January 2018. Proposals focusing primarily or solely on this area, rather than its links with productivity and labour markets, may be better suited to this call. 

How to apply

All proposals must be submitted through the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system by 16:00 on 11 January 2018. Detailed guidance about how to apply is provided below.

Standard ESRC eligibility rules apply. See a list of eligible organisations (external website).

Call documents

The call documents below have been amended to reflect changes to the international co-investigator costing policy.


  • Deadline for submitting full proposals - 16:00 on 11 January 2018
  • Panel meeting - 3 May 2018
  • Decisions to applicants - late May 2018
  • Start date for successful proposals - 1 September 2018