UK £1.5bn aid fund risks being ‘spread too thinly’

12 Sep 17

A £1.5bn cross-government fund helping developing countries respond to crisis through research and science needs to be more focused, an aid watchdog has said.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), in a review published today, recognised the £1.5bn Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) had “potential to help address major global development challenges”.

But said the fund “needs more focused objectives to achieve the transformative research impact it aspires to, as the current approach has resulted in a scattered portfolio of research projects”.

The GCRF was set up in November 2015 and has a budget of £1.5bn over five years (2016 – 2021) – contributing towards the government’s 0.7% aid target – to harness science and research expertise in the UK to help developing countries “strengthen their resilience and response to crisis”.

Strategy, governance arrangements and procedures of funding stream were “not yet clear or strong enough”, the watchdog found.

The ICAI review praised the aid fund for its proactive approach to working with research partners, including universities, in developing countries and said it had been innovative, particularly in promoting interdisciplinary work on challenges, such as non-communicable diseases.

The research and science focused aid fund falls under the authorities of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and is administered through delivery partners, including the umbrella organisations Research Councils and National Academies, and the UK Space Agency.

It marks a significant increase in UK funding for development research, the review said.

The ICAI also called on BEIS and the Department for International Development (DFID) to look into the funding conditions of the GCRF to ensure they are consistent with the government’s commitments to UK aid.

ICAI is an independent commission reporting to the UK International Development Committee. It provides independent reviews of UK aid spending and contributes to the accountability of UK Official Development Assistance. 

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