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Alliances for Research Challenges

Alliances for Research Challenges (ARCs) connect Scotland’s research excellence to Scotland’s national challenges. They build on our distinctive collaborative ethos and our world-class universities – building connections across Research Pools, Innovation Centres, research institutes, industry partners, third-sector collaborators, policymakers, and the people of Scotland – to create interdisciplinary, multi-institutional, cross-sectoral networks, tackling key societal challenges aligned to Scottish Government priorities.


ARCs aim to:

  • Coordinate the research community across disciplines, institutions and sectors.
  • Leverage additional funding into our system.
  • Connect Scottish Government priorities with areas of strength within our publicly funded research system.

Alliances for Research Challenges diagramARCs fulfil the recommendation within SFC’s Review of Tertiary Education and Research to create next-generation networks that build on our sustained investment in the Research Pooling Initiative with a focus on interdisciplinary challenge-oriented research collaboration, leveraging additional funding and fostering early career researcher communities and training.

Challenge areas where ARCs will focus

We launched ARCs with a call for expressions of interest in March 2022 to identify the challenge areas where ARCs will be developed. We announced the successful challenge areas with support from the Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training.

ARCs will be developed in:

  • Energy transition and sustainability – tackling social, technical, and economic challenges.
  • Food systems – addressing health, equity, and sustainability.
  • Healthy ageing – improving the nation’s brain health.
  • Quantum technologies – creating connections for future economic benefits.

SFC is now working with the teams involved in the successful challenge areas to develop responses to our Call for Full Proposals [PDF] by 16 December 2022. Please note that the Call for Full Proposals is only open to teams who were successful at the Expressions of Interest (EoI) stage.

We will update this page with contact details for the consortia leadership teams in due course for those wishing to explore potential opportunities for collaboration.

The panel recognised a further two areas as important societal challenges of particular relevance to Scottish Government priorities: the natural economy and the blue economy. SFC will engage with researchers who submitted expressions of interest in these areas to explore future opportunities.

Challenge assessment

An independent assessment panel advised SFC on the areas where ARCs should be developed. Bids were considered on the basis of the assessment criteria which focused on the demonstration of:

  • The involvement of a broad and appropriate range of disciplines and areas of Scottish research strength.
  • The urgency, relevance, and alignment of challenges with Scottish Government priority policy areas.
  • The potential to attract external research funding.
  • The added benefit brought as a result of SFC’s investment.

Panel members were chosen to reflect a range of perspectives and expertise of relevance to the ARCs:

  • Professor Lesley Yellowlees: Panel Chair, Chair of SFC’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee, SFC Board member, former Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh.
  • Katie Daniel: Deputy Director, Partnerships – University Partnerships, Regional Engagement and Place, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), previously with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
  • Professor Maggie Gill: Chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC), emeritus Professor, University of Aberdeen.
  • Matt McCallum: Associate Director of Programmes, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UKRI.
  • Dr Rhona McDonald: Strategic Lead Science, Research, International, Scottish Government.
  • Professor Anne Anderson: RKEC member, former Vice-Principal and Head of College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow.

For further information please contact Dr Cat Ball, Assistant Director for Research & Innovation, email: