Degree LevelOthers
Type Academic Scholarships
Final Deadline 23 May, 2021
Intake Year2021


The Grand Challenge Fund (GCF) is a key element of the Higher Education Development in Pakistan Project supported by the World Bank and implemented by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The GCF is anticipated to promote research excellence in strategic sectors of the economy, and will provide funds to selected institutions based upon a competitive, peer-reviewed evaluation of proposals.

GCF will support large, multisectoral/multidimensional research projects. Successful GCF projects are anticipated to be collaborative in scope, with research teams working cooperatively to accelerate research progress for societal impact. Projects are expected to use a systems-type approach in developing the research agenda, where separate projects come together to achieve a broad-based thematic research advance. Projects should include: relevant and cutting-edge research activities and postgraduate student training.

Research conducted in GCF projects must address specific challenges associated with the targeted priority thematic areas. A successful GCF funded project must clearly demonstrate a solution or significant progress in addressing a grand challenge of national importance and may result in development of a consensus and coalition for large-scale adoption, deployment, or scaling of the proposed solution in 3-5 years time from the point of award. Results should be disseminated in international peer reviewed journals, as well as to policymakers and stakeholders in relevant disciplines.

The portfolio of awards supported through the Grand Challenge Fund will address the broad range of priority thematic areas. It is anticipated that awards will be distributed at academic institutions across Pakistan, and that a significant proportion of the PIs will be female.


Lead Principal Investigators (PIs) must:

  • Be university faculty members (with PhD or FCPS/MCPS/FRCS) from research intensive institution as notified for GCF Call 2020 vide notification no R&D/GCF/01/2020/284 (List of Research Intensive Universities) dated January 20, 2020. 

Project Team may include:

  • A consortia of faculty members from multiple university departments and/or multiple universities
  • Private sector participants, particularly when they bring prior IP or capability to the consortium and/or significant deployment, implementation, or scale up capability
  • International partners

International collaborations are encouraged:

  • When the international partner brings a unique added value to the project team

The detailed eligibility criteria of Institutions are available in the link Eligibility Criteria for HEC Competitive Research Grants

Partnerships are viewed as a key component of Grand Challenge Fund projects. Principal Investigators should be faculty members at research intensive institutions in Pakistan, but should also build a research team capable of completing a comprehensive research agenda over the project lifetime. This research team can include faculty members from the PI's home institution, any other academic institutions in Pakistan, and/or international academic institutions. In addition, where appropriate sectoral stakeholders (private enterprise, including, but not limited to, multinational, regional, national or local Enterprises; Ministries and other public authorities; chambers of commerce; trade groups and professional associations; hospitals; policymakers; and other appropriate stakeholders) can be included in the research team. To take full advantage of the national research capacity, PIs are encouraged to build teams including junior and senior academic staff, as well as both male and female researchers.


Applications can be submitted in response to a call for proposal. Submission must be made to the HEC online portal ( according to the guidelines provided in the call for proposals document under "Downloads" section. Once the required details are filled online, please upload all the required documents in .pdf form and submit the application before deadline. 

Note: An application once submitted can not be edited/resubmitted

Proposal Submission Stages

  • Project Outline Submission 
  • Full Proposal Submission

Evaluation Process

GCF awards are made through an open, rigorous, transparent, competitive and merit-based process consistent with international standards

The Evaluation process consists of three sequential steps: 

  • Project Outline Review
  • Full Proposal Desk Evaluation
  • Presentation to High Level Expert Panel by the project team and Institutional leadership of short-listed full proposals

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