A joint-funding scheme to alleviate poverty, worth £13m, has been set up by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for International Development.
It will operate as a research grants programme and will be open to UK and non-UK researchers, with the money not tied to any reciprocal terms with the donor country.
Professor Ian Diamond, chief executive of ESRC, said he did not want the research to dictate policy, but to "set agendas in response to the socio-economic reality of life in the developing world".
Spanning three years, the project will see £5m spent in the first year, with a further £8m to be spread over the final two years. It aims to promote social science research that addresses poverty reduction among the poorest people and countries, and strengthen collaboration between the research council and DfID.
DfID has in the past provided substantial support for research, because it tends to lead to new technologies that in the past three decades have been seen as a driving force behind gains in poverty reduction.
Steven Morgan, director of the project, said he hoped the best international researchers from across the social sciences would apply.