The History of ESPA

Programme Governance and ESPA Timeline

Programme Governance and Structure:

ESPA History:

June 2018

November 2017– June 2018:

2017- 2018: 

  • 6-Impact Activity Fund Grants awarded.
  • Legacy agreements signed with Africa and Asia institutions that committed to champion ESPA’s research in their countries and regions.
  • ESPA legacy plans implemented and the ESPA Legacy website launched in March 2018 – operating until March 2022.


  • 5- ESPA 2016 research synthesis grants awarded to build on the scientific advances of existing ESPA 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.
  • Review of ESPA impact activity and revised Impact Strategy launched.
  • 19 small impact-focused grants awarded by the Directorate: Regional Opportunity Fund, Impact Activity Grants, Open Access and Small Grants.

    • 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.
  • Appointment of Regional Evidence Advisors (May and September 2015), based in Nairobi, Kenya and Delhi, India.

    • Purpose: to focus on achieving impact for ESPA’s research findings.


  • 8-ESPA Fellowships awarded 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.
  • 5-ESPA 2014 “blue skies” grants awarded.

    • Purpose: Projects focused on understanding the links between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation, to inform thinking and practice over at least the next decade.


  • 11-ESPA 2013 grants awarded.

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


  • 6-ESPA 2012 grants awarded.

    • Purpose: large projects focused on understanding how ecosystems function to provide services in multi-functional landscapes to better support enhanced multi-dimensional wellbeing.
  • 8-Directorate Research into use and open access  grants awarded

    • 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.


  • 3-ESPA 2011 grants awarded.

    • Purpose: Major projects running for up to five years that will provide significant new knowledge on the relationship between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation.
  • 4-Evidence and Impact Research Grants awarded (mid-2012).

    • 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.


  • The ESPA Directorate (September 2010) contract was awarded to the University of Edinburgh (delivered through Research into Results Limited - a subsidiary company) and operations began.  The Directorate support covered:  impact and knowledge sharing, research into use grant awards, monitoring and evaluation, programmatic reporting, communications, and capacity building.
  • 28-Partnership and Project Development grants awarded.

    • Purpose: to develop substantial research partnerships and research strategies to develop proposals for subsequent ESPA funding rounds.
  • 18-Programme Framework Grants awarded.

    • Purpose: major projects that explored new and innovative concepts, methodologies and models needed to successfully deliver ESPA's objectives.
  • Impact Framework launched-January 2010. The design of the ESPA programme was fully approved, and the DFID and ESRC funding allocations confirmed.


  • 11-Strengthening Research Capacity grants awarded. (Early 2009).

    • Purpose: to build networks and partnerships between Southern and Northern researchers.
  • Design of ESPA programme approved - external consultation with expert Focus Groups on the 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.


  • The NERC Council approved the funding allocation for ESPA.
  • A Synthesis Workshop in Cape Town (June 2008) was held to discuss outcomes of the Regional Situation Analyses and inform the conceptual framework for the ESPA programme.