Fifteen research groups awarded Challenge-led Grants to address challenges facing developing countries

29 April 2019

Last year’s invitation from the UK National Academies for research teams across different disciplines to propose solutions for the globe’s most challenging issues of resilience has resulted in 15 international and interdisciplinary consortia receiving over £7 million from the UK Government funded Challenge-led Grants.

The awardees cover research from tsunami resilience and a circular economy of sanitation, to fishery stewardship in a warming climate and a clearer understanding of HIV-related cancers.

Launched as a cross-academy initiative by the UK National Academies - the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Royal Society - the grants aim to foster collaboration not just between disciplines but countries too, with each consortium being composed of one research group from the UK and two from developing countries.

The grants are part of the Global Challenges Research Fund, a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government to support cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries.

The 15 awardees are:

1. Schistosomiasis, shallow-water fisheries and human resilience around Lake Victoria: towards a multidisciplinary solution for interlinked human-health and food-security challenges

Professor Andrew Brierley, University of St Andrews; Dr Safari Methusela Kinung'hi, National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR); Dr Robert Jeremiah Kayanda, Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization.

Introducing new techniques to catalogue the relationship between fisheries, their fish, and the parasites contained therein to better inform fishery management.

2. Resilient futures for the Rohingya refugees

Professor Peter Sammonds, University College London (UCL); Professor A S M Maksud Kamal, University of Dhaka; Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, University of Dhaka.

Building resilient futures for both the Rohingya refugee and local host populations in Cox’s Bazar district through research and practical solutions, reducinghydro-meteorological disasters, particularly landslide risks.

3. Resilience of Traditional Structures in Madagascar to Cyclones in a Changing Climate

Dr Thomas Reynolds, University of Edinburgh; Dr Veronica Kiluva, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology; Dr Luciano Andriamaro, Conservation International.

Evaluating the integrity of local infrastructure, the capacity of society to respond and adapt to cyclones, and how this information will uphold traditional structures and guide future development.

4. Enabling the circular economy for sanitation

Dr Alison Parker, Cranfield University; Dr Elizabeth Tilley, University of Malawi; Ms Joy Nyawira Riungu, Meru University of Science and Technology.

Engaging with the community and pre-existing sanitation businesses in Kenya and Malawi to identify the changes needed for a sanitation circular economy.

5. Developing novel therapeutic approaches for Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common HIV-associated cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa

Professor Adrian Whitehouse, University of Leeds; Dr Adrienne Lesley Edkins, Rhodes University; Dr Anisa Mosam, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

Understanding the mechanisms surrounding viral infection, specifically the role of molecular chaperones and their role mediating virus particles and host cells.

6. Developing network ecology to understand and secure resilient food systems

Dr Darren Evans, Newcastle University; Dr Paulo Roberto Guimarães Junior, Universidade de São Paulo; Professor Mariano Devoto, University of Buenos Aires.


Developing and applying network models to agroecosystems, their social and ecological aspects, to improve the production of crops like soybeans and ensure future availability.

7. Building earthquake and tsunami resilience in East Indonesia

Dr Mohammad Heidarzadeh, Brunel University; Dr Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, Indonesian Institute of Sciences; Dr. Ing. Widjo Kongko, Agency for the Assessment & Application of Technology (BPPT).

Producing original data on East Indonesia’s seismotechnics to inform earthquake and tsunami policy and build resilience in other Southeast Asian countries.

8. Using a multi-hazard and catchment-based approach to understand and increase resilience in hyper-expanding cities in Vietnam and the Philippines

Dr Michael Ellis, British Geological Survey; Dr Bui Quang Hung, Vietnam National University; Dr Maria Aileen Leah G. Guzman, Ateneo de Manila University.

Looking at the interplay of culture, hazards, and catchment properties to inform risk-management, data available to Vietnamese and Pilipino civil society as well as local and national governments.

9. Distributed Fibre Sensing for sustainable cities and action on short-term environmental-shocks

Professor Gilberto Brambilla, University of Southampton; Professor Nathaniel Joseph C. Libatique, Ateneo de Manila University; Professor Daniel J. McNamara, Ateneo de Davao University.

Implementing a monitoring system to provide real time feedback that will be used to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and increase accessibility to metropolitan resources and services to people living in less privileged areas.

10. Building Resilience in Galapagos Ecosystem Management to Severe Climate Change

Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato, University of Southampton; Dr Alex R Hearn, Universidad San Francisco de Quito; Dr Carlos Mena, Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

Modelling oceanic ecosystems, currents and planktonic movement, and combining these with climate model projections to build resilience for fisheries of the future.

11. Breeding Rice Resilient to a High CO2 Future

Professor Andrew Fleming, University of Sheffield; Professor Mohd Fauzi Ramlan, Universiti Putra Malaysia; Professor Xinguang Zhu, the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Using computational biology to simulate the environmental conditions of 2050–2070, feeding this information on to breeders to cultivate plants best prepared for these conditions, ensuring food for the next generation.

12. Development of phage therapy for controlling plant pathogenic bacteria

Dr Ville Friman, University of York; Dr Zhong Wei, Nanjing Agricultural University; Professor Triwidodo Arwiyanto, Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Developing an interdisciplinary and environmentally-friendly solution, a specific bacteriophage virus, to combat Ralstonia—the world’s second most destructive bacterial plant pathogen.

13. Drought Resilience in East African dryland Regions

Dr Katerina Michaelides, University of Bristol; Dr Oliver Vivian Wasonga, University of Nairobi; Professor Mohammed Assen, Addis Ababa University.

Developing tools, including a mobile phone app, for communities to access current and future rainfall conditions, and using these tools to dispense vital drought-related information.

14. Towards Sustainable Sanitation in India and Brazil

Dr Deljana Iossifova, University of Manchester; Dr Amita Bhide, Tata Institute of Social Sciences;Dr Norma Felicidade Lopes da Silva Valencio, Universidade Federal de São Carlos.

By studying sanitation systems across India and Brazil, researchers will build state-of-the-art models and scenarios for decision-makers, ensuring progress moves forward sustainably.

15. Developing "Temp-Resist Rice" to maintain yield under high temperature stress

Professor Zoe Wilson, University of Nottingham; Professor Wanqi Liang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Dr Liang Gong, Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Using digital imaging and machine learning to analyse rice diversity and zeroing in on those natural variants with the traits best suited to coping with future temperatures stressors.

Find out more about Challenge-led Grants