£7 million grant will help create healthier cities

A landmark project to improve the lives of people living in cities in developing countries has been awarded £7 million.

The George Institute’s Professor Kazem Rahimi is part of an international team working on The PEAK Program which has benefited from the grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded through the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The funds will be used over five years to foster a generation of urban scholars working in the field of humanities, science and social science to enable cities to meet the needs of their future inhabitants and help manage their growth.

The project is being led by Professor Michael Keith, of the University of Oxford, who said: “We aim to grow a new generation of interdisciplinary urbanists and a network of smarter cities working together across Africa, China, India, Colombia and the UK.”

Professor Rahimi, Deputy Director of The George Institute, UK, added: “Given that health is a major priority for growing cities world-wide, we are excited to work with an excellent team of interdisciplinary scientists from several countries to tackle these challenges.”

A total of 37 projects in fields such as health, humanitarian crises, conflict, the environment, the economy, domestic violence, society and technology, received grants ranging from £2-8 million from the GCRF. Examples include:

  • Addressing real-world problems such as the growing prevalence of diabetes and dementia in both the developing world and in western countries.
  • Utilising the potential of museums not only to reflect on past lives but also to promote social justice, strong institutions and fair societies.
  • Creating novel manufacturing processes for solar power and smart technologies for a second Green Revolution in crop yields.

The GCRF aims to build upon research knowledge in the UK, and strengthen capacity overseas, to help address challenges, informed by expressed need in the developing countries.

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 a 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.”

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.”

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.”

For full list of projects and to read more about PEAK (on page 7), download the GCRF brochure (PDF 3.2MB).