Sustainable Development Grant Programme

The British Academy

Suggest an update

Grant amount: £360,000

Anticipated deadline: Jul 20, 2020 9:00am PDT

Applicant type: Research Scientist Faculty Postdoctoral Researcher

Funding uses: Research

Location of project: Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola; Argentina Show all

Location of residency: United Kingdom

View website    Save


The British Academy has launched the second round of its Sustainable Development Programme, which is supported by the UK Government’s £1.5billion Global Challenges Research Fund.

This programme funds excellent, policy-oriented UK research, aimed at addressing the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and advancing the UK’s Aid Strategy. It supports researchers in the humanities and the social sciences working to generate evidence on the challenges and opportunities faced in developing countries and respond to the Sustainable Development Goals. The Academy is particularly keen to encourage applications from the humanities in this round.

Aims and Context

The first round of the British Academy’s Sustainable Development Programme funded excellent challenge-oriented research focused on sustainable governance, sustainable growth and sustainable human development and creativity broadly understood. To continue to address these needs, the second round of the Sustainable Development Programme will focus on:

  • supporting innovative research projects and collaborations;
  • building our understanding of human and cultural contexts and how this can help inform practices and policies aimed at contributing to sustainable development outcomes;
  • expanding the research base in countries and populations with high unmet need and low research capacity.

The British Academy envisages the second round of awards advancing and deepening our understanding of the relevance and importance of the historical context of development, culture(s) and heritage(s) in particular to addressing sustainable development. Tackling many of the world’s sustainable development challenges requires a consideration of local cultures, practices, histories and societal norms, and an understanding of how such norms are complex and contextually differentiated. It is often, however, the case that these considerations are not well or fully brought into sustainable development discussions that tend to ignore aesthetic, representational, and reflective practices. New approaches that cross sectoral and disciplinary boundaries will be vital in achieving a step change in this area.

Research Focus

Projects must demonstrate an innovative and interdisciplinary approach yielding new conceptual understandings, developing ground-breaking research and energising innovative research collaborations in the humanities and the social sciences, particularly with partners in the Global South, related to one or more of the three sub-themes below:


Sustainable development requires the ability to look forward but also to have a deep and rich understanding of the past. Heritage and memorialisation – understood not simply as material culture, but as identity, language and faith transmitted over time - can be both inclusive and peaceful as well as exclusive and threatening. In the context of developing sustainably, planning for resilience and adapting to change can involve a host of actors, cultures, moralities, literatures, languages, histories and institutions. The mobilisation and use of heritage has been fundamental to our understanding of local contexts and cultures. These competing interpretations and reconstructions need further critical analysis to unpick assumptions and illustrate the complexities of histories, societies, cultures and polities when responding to sustainable development challenges.


Often sustainable development challenges can be viewed through technical lenses rather than human eyes. For many people experiencing development change, the opportunities this brings, the aspirations fostered and suffering endured, the preservation of dignity is of central importance. The weaving of dignity into our understanding of sustainable development challenges is a complex issue that requires further research, since it often involves very different conceptions of the rights of the individual and of the community. In particular, in what ways could understanding of these different conceptions of dignity within various individual, community and societal frames be meaningful, or in conflict with, the challenges that the Sustainable Development Goals agenda presents?


Violence is a near ever-present reality for much of humanity, but the narratives and experiences of violence, and the relationships between diverse aspects of violence and actions undertaken in the name of sustainable development, are poorly understood. Exploring the identities, semantic configurations, mythologies, attitudes, and histories that create the imagined space for narratives of violence/violation to take root, to flourish, and to structure experience of the moral economy in different places, will vitally improve our understanding of violence, power relations and how these intersect with the politics of suffering, offering a vital missing angle to debates on sustainable development. The less tangible, ephemeral carriers and atmospheres of violence, as well as the less visible structures of violence that may underpin them, and the ways in which they are absorbed and ritualised in everyday culture are also often missed in discussions on sustainable development. However, identifying them and analysing them is critical to understanding the life experience of many.

Value & Duration

Projects must be up to 27 months in duration, with a value of up to £300,000 each. Projects are expected to start in September of the application year. The first instalment will be paid immediately on acceptance of the award, with subsequent instalments paid at regular intervals. Awards are funded on a 100% full economic costs basis inclusive of overhead.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The Sustainable Development Programme is open to researchers based at UK institutions.
  • The main applicant must be based at an eligible UK university or research institute, and have at least three years postdoctoral (or equivalent) research experience.
  • The applicant must either be in a permanent position at the institution or have a fixed-term position for the duration of the award.
  • Co-applicants can be from overseas, and co-applicants from the Global South are encouraged, but they must also have at least three years of postdoctoral (or equivalent) research experience.
  • ODA Eligibility Criteria
    • The Sustainable Development Programme falls under the Global Challenges Research Fund and, therefore, will fund only ODA-eligible projects.
    • Only research that has a primary objective which is directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA.
    • We will require applicants to demonstrate that the proposal is ODA eligible.
    • ODA eligibility is an essential criterion – projects will only be deemed eligible for funding if they can demonstrate that they satisfy ODA eligibility criteria.


  •  The Academy has no funding schemes for postgraduate students, masters students or candidates studying for other professional qualifications.