‘Creating possibilities and giving hope’: on the GCRF frontline

UK Research and Innovation has announced a large cut to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) as a result of the Government’s decision to reduce spending on international aid.

GCRF was established to target the best of Britain’s research effort at the big problems facing the world.

The University of Leeds has been involved in about 150 individual projects in more than 50 countries that have been funded by GCRF, or the associated Newton Fund. Both form part of UK Overseas Development Assistance. The projects have resulted in research collaborations around the globe.

One African scientist said: “GCRF creates an atmosphere of possibilities – giving hope to countless people.”

Improving weather forecasting across Africa

GCRF has funded a major project called African Science for Weather Information and Forecasting Techniques – African SWIFT

Extreme weather such as storms, droughts and floods have severe impacts on communities. Every year, high-intensity weather events result in devastating loss of life and damage to land and infrastructure – and they are set to increase because of climate change. 

A picture of a hurricane, taken from space. Pixabay photo.

Improving the accuracy of weather forecasting is critical for people’s safety, and for key economic sectors including aviation, agriculture, energy, water supply and emergency response.

The project received £7.9 million in funding from GCRF, commenced activities in 2017 and is planned to run until the end of 2021. 

Doug Parker, Professor of Meteorology at Leeds and Lead Scientist with African SWIFT, said: “By improving weather forecasting, the project has had an impact on the lives of millions of ordinary people who, armed with accurate weather information, can take steps to protect themselves, their families and livestock from the effects of severe weather. It also enables organisations and governments to better respond if there is a weather emergency.

“But the biggest legacy of African SWIFT is the way it has fostered a network of operational forecasters and meteorological scientists across Africa who will continue to adapt and improve forecasting techniques in the light of the latest research long after African SWIFT has finished.”

Read the full story to see the impact of African SWIFT and other GCRF-funded programmes at the University of Leeds.