University College London Union

Grand Challenges Student Fund

UCL’s Grand Challenges are looking for students with bright ideas for tackling some of the world’s big issues – and are offering funding and support to turn those ideas into reality.

UCL’s four Grand Challenges are Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing. If you have a project idea in one of those areas – and if your ideas connect with an area of UCL’s research expertise – then we’d like to hear from you. Grants of up to £750 are on offer, and training and support will be offered by UCLU’s Volunteering Services Unit.

About UCL’s Grand Challenges
The Grand Challenges draw upon UCL’s research excellence in order to encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations that will mitigate and prevent those circumstances that produce needless suffering, ill health, stress, misunderstanding, conflict and the unsustainable use of the Earth’s resources. UCL’s four Grand Challenges are Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.

The Grand Challenges are part of UCL’s Research Strategy, which fosters:

  • leadership within and beyond discipline-based research;
  • expansion of the distinctive cross-disciplinarity of our research, collaboration and partnerships;
  • and aims to increase the impact of our research locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. 

The purpose of this grant is to enable students to apply their studies or research to the benefit of the wider community in a way that connects with one of the Grand Challenges. Funding will be given to practical, exciting projects that are well planned and have a realistic chance of success. Proposed activities may be drawn from, based around, or linked into existing UCL research activity (being undertaken by students or staff). Entirely novel activities may also be proposed if evidence of appropriate academic mentorship is provided.

The promotion of the grant will also enable us to raise awareness of the Grand Challenges amongst the student body and provide a practical way for them to engage with them.

Grants of up to £750 are available.

Proposals must fulfil the following criteria to be considered for funding.

  • Be well planned and have a realistic chance of success.
  • Be led entirely by UCL students.
  • Address one of the UCL Grand Challenges of Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.
  • Apply the students’ UCL studies or research to the benefit of the wider community. However, we will not fund activities that directly receive academic credit.
  • Be completed within 12 months of approval, or before the applicants finish their studies at UCL (whichever is sooner).

Potential Projects

  • Exploring sustainable approaches to city living, e.g. urban agriculture
  • Creating opportunities for people to share their cultures
  • Promoting active and healthy lifestyles, especially amongst vulnerable groups
  • Turning student research into policy materials for NGOs, Local Authorities or central Government
  • Supporting migrant groups in London
  • Strategy development in organisations that work with the homeless
  • Helping community organisations to reduce their energy usage
  • Promoting an understanding of concepts of human rights
  • Exploring ways in which new technologies and behavioural change interventions can be deployed in local health promotion

These are some examples of the sorts of projects we would fund - but we’re keen to hear your ideas as well.

Application Process
Students should read the guidance notes and then complete the application form and email to John Braime at the VSU at j.braime@ucl.ac.uk

You will be invited to present their project idea to the VSU Small Grants Panel, which meets every 2 weeks during term time (and less frequently during vacation periods). The applicants will usually receive a decision within 1 working day.

Project Management
Successful applicants will be required to sign a funding agreement. Funds will be managed by the VSU or, if more suitable, within the students’ academic department. Funding will not be transferred to personal bank accounts.

Students will be required to return monthly monitoring forms to the VSU and an end of project evaluation. The VSU will provide support as part of the Innovations Programme package available to UCL students.