The History of ESPA

Below is a timeline of the major milestones in the ESPA programme.


If you would like more information, the Programme Memorandum is available, as well as a diagram of ESPA's Governance Structure and its Terms of Reference.

June 2018: ESPA’s final event in London focuses on ESPA’s legacy for future policy-making and research on poverty alleviation and ecosystems. ESPA Directorate closes.

March 2018: ESPA Africa Declaration published.

February – June 2018: Publication of an ESPA book, summarising academic findings, plus a summary for policy-makers in multiple languages and briefs and reports on key lessons learned from ESPA, and launch of ESPA flagship documentary.

March 2018: Conclusion of all research grants.

November 2017 - March 2018: Sharing of ESPA's results and learning through workshops, conferences and professional development courses held across Africa and Asia.

2017-18: Legacy agreements signed with Africa and Asia institutions that committed to championing ESPA’s research in their countries and regions.

2016: Review of ESPA impact activity.

2016: ESPA 2016 grants awarded.

  • Purpose: to assist ESPA projects, groups of projects, and their local stakeholders, to significantly enhance the overall impact of individual projects and the ESPA programme as a whole.
  • 5 projects.
  • Purpose: research synthesis projects focused on significantly advancing global understanding on the way that ecosystem services contribute to poverty alleviation. The call funded projects that built upon the scientific advances and evidence generated by existing ESPA projects.

2015-17: Various small impact-focused grants awarded: Regional Opportunity Fund, Impact Activity Grants and Small Grants

  • 20 projects
  • Purpose: to assist ESPA projects, groups of projects, and their local stakeholders, to significantly enhance the overall impact of individual projects and the ESPA programme as a whole.

2015: Employment of Regional Evidence Advisors, based in Nairobi, Kenya and Delhi, India. They were responsible for building networks with institutions that could take up ESPA's research findings.

2014: ESPA Fellowships

  • 8 Fellows under 2 schemes
  • Purpose: An initiative to create and support a global network of ESPA Fellows, and support the professional development of promising early stage researchers.

2014: ESPA 2014 grants awarded.

  • 5 projects
  • Purpose: "Blue Skies" projects, focused on understanding the links between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation, to inform thinking and practice over at least the next decade​

November 2013: ESPA 2013 grants awarded.

  • 11 projects
  • Purpose: Series of smaller grants, focused on 3 research themes: Sustainable, ecosystem services-based pathways out of poverty; Ecosystem services and the urban environment; Building on ESPA success.

2013: ESPA 2012 grants awarded.

  • 6 projects
  • Purpose: large projects focused on understanding how ecosystems function to provide services in multi-functional landscapes to better support enhanced multi-dimensional wellbeing.

October 2012: Research into use and open access grants awarded

  • 8 projects
  • Purpose: To support the uptake of research findings into development policy and practice and the publication of journal articles that are free at the point of access.

2011: ESPA 2011 grants awarded

  • 3 projects
  • Purpose: Major projects running for up to five years that will provide significant new knowledge on the relationship between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation.

Mid 2012: Evidence and Impact Research Grants awarded

  • 4 projects
  • Purpose: to generate high-quality evidence of how ecosystem services contribute to poverty alleviation around the world by interacting with key policy and outreach events during 2012.

The International Programme Advisory Committee (I-PAC) was appointed to provide ESPA with independent advice on strategic and technical aspects of the programme in relation to research, capacity strengthening and most importantly in getting research into use.

September 2010: The ESPA Directorate contract was awarded to the University of Edinburgh and operations began, providing support to the programme. The Directorate manages a cross-portfolio programme covering knowledge sharing, research into use, monitoring and evaluation, and capacity building.

Mid-2010 Partnership and Project Development grants awarded

  • 28 projects
  • Purpose: to develop substantial research partnerships and research strategies to develop proposals for subsequent ESPA funding rounds.

Mid-2010: Programme Framework Grants awarded

  • 18 projects
  • Purpose: major projects that explored new and innovative concepts, methodologies and models needed to successfully deliver ESPA's objectives.

January 2010: Impact Framework launched. The design of the ESPA programme was fully approved, and the DFID and ESRC funding allocations confirmed.

Early 2009: Strengthening Research Capacity grants awarded

  • 11 projects
  • Purpose: to build networks and partnerships between Southern and Northern researchers

2009: External consultation with expert Focus Groups on the ESPA research landscape took place. Six broad research themes emerged from the consultation phase, which described some of the key components of the ESPA research landscape.

July 2008: The NERC Council approved the funding allocation for ESPA.

June 2008: A Synthesis Workshop in Cape Town was held to discuss outcomes of the Regional Situation Analyses and inform the conceptual framework for the ESPA programme.

2007: Four regional and two thematic Situational Analyses were commissioned, to ensure that research themes for the programme were demand-led.

June 2006–Sept 2006In order to fully address the multidisciplinary nature of the ESPA programme, the Economic and Social Research Council(ESRC) become involved and a Programme Management Group (PMG) was established.

June 2006: The Department for International Development (DFID) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) were tasked with developing a proposal for the ESPA programme design.

Footnote: The projects numbered in this timeline are those which are associated with significant milestones.