Cities research project wins £7.1m GCRF funding

Published: 25 July 2017

The University has been awarded a grant worth £7.1 million to set up a GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (CSHLC).

The University has been awarded a grant worth £7.1 million to set up a GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (CSHLC).

The award is part of a £225m international research funding announcement made today by Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson. Altogether 37 interdisciplinary projects will receive investment over the next four years from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils UK Collective Fund, launched today. ‌

Addressing serious challenges

The fund aims to build upon research knowledge in the UK and strengthen capacity overseas to help address some of the most serious challenges faced in the world.

Professor Ya Ping Wang, Chair in Global City Futures at the School of Social and Political Sciences, will lead this new Centre, with support from colleagues in Urban Studies, Education, and Health and Wellbeing.

The Centre’s international partners include the Human Sciences Research Council and University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, the University of Rwanda, the National Institute of Urban Affairs in India, Khulna University in Bangladesh, Nankai University in China and the University of the Philippines.

The Centre will strengthen research capacity among urban researchers, government officials and policy makers in developing countries and the UK and conduct comparative studies of urbanisation and urban neighbourhoods to address the challenges caused by large-scale rural to urban migration.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5bn fund which supports cutting-edge research and innovation that address the global issues faced by developing countries. It forms part of the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance commitment and is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy;  it is delivered through 17 delivery partners including the Research Councils, the UK Academies, UK Space Agency and funding bodies.

Science and research at heart of strategy 

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “From healthcare to green energy, the successful projects receiving funding today highlight the strength of the UK’s research base and our leadership in helping developing countries tackle some of the greatest global issues of our time.‌

“At a time when the pace of scientific discovery and innovation is quickening, we are placing science and research at the heart of our Industrial Strategy to build on our strengths and maintain our status as science powerhouse.”

Andrew Thompson, RCUK GCRF Champion, said: “The 37 projects announced today build research capacity both here in the UK and in developing countries to address systemic development challenges, from African agriculture to sustainable cities, clean oceans, and green energy, to improved healthcare, food security, and gender equality.”

Laying the foundations

Professor Thompson added: “The ambition is to lay the foundations for a sustained and targeted research effort to address the most intractable challenges faced by the world today, climate change, disease and epidemics, food insecurity, rapid urbanisation, and forced displacement and protracted conflict.”

Working together

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive designate of UK Research and Innovation, said: “In the same way that facing these global challenges requires a multi-national response, finding the solutions to them requires researchers from many disciplines to work together. The Global Challenges Research Fund makes that possible, and means that the UK’s world-leading researchers are able to get on with the job of working with each other and partners across the globe to make the world and society more sustainable.”

Contributing to the global debate

Professor Wang said: “The Glasgow-led GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (CSHLC) will enable us to work closely with our international partners to study the internal socio-economic and physical structures of 14 cities located in seven African and Asian countries. It will help us to make a significant contribution to the global debate, policy and practice about the development of sustainable cities and communities.”Datong

The project will study urban transformations in both large and small cities in the following countries: South Africa – Cape Town and Johannesburg; Tanzania – Dar es Salaam and Ifakara; Rwanda – Kigali and Butare; India – Delhi and Meerut; Bangladesh – Dhaka and Khulna; China – Chongqing and Datong; Philippines – Manila and Batangas.

Films like Slumdog Millionaire and Favela Rising have brought to the public imagination vivid images of the slums of big, developing world cities. But what of other communities? They may be slightly less poor but still have their own problems, lacking services and the other ingredients of a productive urban life. The CSHLC will seek to fill this research capacity gap through training and comparative studies of different neighbourhoods.

Breaking down silos

Michele Schweisfurth, Co-Investigator, Professor of Comparative and International Education and Director of the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change at the University of Glasgow, added: “This project provides us with opportunities to break down the disciplinary silos between urban studies, education and health. The future generation of urban planners will have new data and tools from this interdisciplinary study to inform their thinking about sustainable neighbourhoods and cities.”

Shaped by our neighbourhoods

Professor Ivan Turok, Co-Investigator and Executive Director of Economic Performance and Development, Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, said: “This award will help us to understand better how people’s wellbeing and life chances are shaped by the neighbourhoods in which they grow up and live. It will also assist in identifying local policy interventions that can ameliorate poverty and deprivation.”

First published: 25 July 2017