The UCLA Grand Challenges initiative was started as a pilot project in spring 2012 under then-Vice Chancellor Economou to bring faculty members together and have them collectively identify a specific societal grand challenge to solve. At the start, there was no funding allocated for this effort. Faculty were receptive to participating even without a financial commitment because the process was intellectually stimulating, there was visible in-person support from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR) for the effort, and it was evident that the OVCR staff were receiving guidance from members of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), connected by President Obama's interest in pursuing solutions to Grand Challenges as a key national strategy for American innovation.
The first UCLA Grand Challenge--the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge (SLA GC)--was publicly revealed in November 2013. The goal of this Grand Challenge is to transition Los Angeles County to 100 percent renewable energy, 100 percent locally sourced water, and enhanced ecosystem health by 2050.
The second Grand Challenge--the Depression Grand Challenge (DGC)--was announced in October 2015. The DGC aims to cut the burden of depression in half by 2050 and eliminate it by the end of the century.
UCLA Grand Challenges are ambitious research projects that connect hundreds of faculty, students, community members and leading experts across every field to solve society’s toughest problems. Developed through an intensive faculty working group ideation process these Grand Challenges are the biggest, most collaborative, and potentially most transformative efforts UCLA has undertaken to date, and the discoveries and scholarship produced are delivering real benefit to California, the Nation, and the world.
UCLA Grand Challenges are currently being supported with campus funds, grants from federal and other sources, industry sponsorships, and philanthropy. The campus has invested both in kind and with direct funding.
As UCLA was the first campus to embark on this type of effort, the campus now serves as a model and resource for other universities exploring similar initiatives.
The exploration of this initiative began in spring 2012. The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge was the first Grand Challenge to be announced, and was publicly revealed in November 2013.