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Official Development Assistance – What is ODA and how can you ensure research is compliant?

In today’s blog, Dr Conor Snowden, International Development Research Manager talks about ODA funding, and how our upcoming workshop can help you learn more about accessing this type of funding.

It has now been five years since the launch of the Newton Fund and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).  For the first time this moved significant official development assistance (ODA) funding for research away from its traditional home in the Department for International Development (DFID) where it had been research about development, and into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) where it focuses more on grand challenges to address development. We have seen a significant increase in University of Edinburgh researchers applying for and winning ODA funding.  But this funding comes with significant strings attached.  Where it can be used and for what purpose is strictly defined.

The aims of ODA funding

All programmes and activities with ODA funding need to demonstrate that they aim to contribute to a reduction in poverty and further global sustainable development or improve the welfare of poor or vulnerable populations of recipient countries. All funding applications to ODA funds will be assessed as to whether they are ODA eligible.

ODA continues as an important source of grant income for researchers

With the UK Government now allocating almost £1.5bn a year on research that comes from its many official development assistance budgets, ODA funding has become an important source of grant income for researchers.  DFID, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), Newton Fund and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) all have ODA calls.  Looking at the political party manifestos for the upcoming general election, it is very likely that the level of ODA funding will continue and it is vital that new researchers, and those who have not engaged with ODA funding before, understand the opportunities and requirements.

ODA definitions and eligibility

Official definitions of ODA come from the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The definition of ODA is broad and can be dependent on interpretation.

The applicant is required to outline a link between the research topic and the development relevant impact suggested. It is not the role of a reviewer to presume any knowledge beyond the subject area.

Areas that are NOT generally ODA–eligible:

  • Defence or military research
  • Military applications of nuclear energy
  • Research specific to issues in developed economies
  • Research into application of technologies where the primary benefit will go to UK companies

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines on ODA include the following sentence: (funding must be) “administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective”.

Understanding the key principles involved with assessing for ODA is vital, and are all to be found through taking a closer look at this sentence and the key pointers of:

  1. Promotion
  2. Economic Development
  3. Welfare
  4. Objective

Come and learn more at our workshop

To find out more about this, come along to our workshop on 17th December which will cover what official development assistance is, and how we can frame research to ensure it is compliant with ODA rules. I will then outline some of the key ODA funds, what is and is not ODA compliant research and how Edinburgh Research Office can support you in crafting a compliant application for ODA funding.

This training will be most relevant to those who are new to ODA funding and have not applied for it previously, but it could provide a useful refresher for those with some experience.  We would encourage researchers at all career stages and across the university to attend but particularly those who have not applied for a grant before and think that their research could have an impact on economic development or social welfare in developing countries.

Sign up for a place



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