Students Staff

05 November 2014

University of Essex receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for ground-breaking research in global health and development

Colchester Campus

Baby in the Babylab

Baby in the Babylab

The University has won a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr Silvia Rigato and Dr Karla Holmboe, from the Department of Psychology, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Longitudinal trajectories in brain function in infancy”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr Rigato and Dr Holmboe’s project is one of more than 60 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, Dr Rigato and Dr Holmboe and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas. The foundation is accepting applications for the current GCE round until 12 November, 2014.

The Essex project will track the development of attention and social skills in infants over time to enable the early identification of children with impairments. The researchers will recruit 60 infants and analyse attention skills, such as alertness monitored by heart rate, and social skills, such as face perception monitored by eye tracking, from the last trimester of pregnancy through to ten months old. In the future, these developmental pathways will be used to help identify infants who may be at risk of developmental difficulties.

Talking about the award Dr Rigato said: “We are really excited about this project. It is rare to get the opportunity to follow a group of children right from the beginning to see how they develop over the first year. We hope this study will help us understand what early changes might lead to later problems, so that eventually we can help children at risk.”


Note to Editors

For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 1070 projects in more than 60 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.



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