The University of Nottingham is investing £200 million to develop environmentally-friendly transport systems and end slavery.
The university is funding six Beacons of Excellence: research groups which will support world-leading experts find solutions to global issues.
The groups will work to find solutions to end modern-day slavery, develop greener transport systems and find sustainable food supplies.
And the money will also go towards brain scanning to help treat people will mental illnesses.
The beacons will contribute to the United Nation’s 17 sustainable development goals, adopted by world leaders in 2015 to end all forms of poverty and climate change by 2030.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, vice-chancellor for research, said: “Our pioneering, multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches deliver sustainable solutions to today’s global challenges.
“The fact that our beacons cover all 17 of the UN’s sustainable development goals goes a step further in demonstrating our impact at an internationally strategic level.”
She added the investment will help to prevent malnutrition by finding crops which can withstand climate change, and brain scanning will treat mental illness.
She said the investment will “change the fact that there are 46 million people enslaved around the world today”, “reduce our reliance on fossil fuels” and “revolutionise greener transport”.
Professor Sir David Greenaway, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “From the pioneering work of people like Sir Peter Mansfield who developed MRI, to Professor Don Grierson who created the world’s first genetically modified tomato, our university and our people are pioneers of world-changing research.
“It is right the university makes this investment in these six profoundly important areas, building on existing expertise and enabling us to entice world-leading academics and experts to push the boundaries of possibility.
“Our beacons are tackling complex global challenges. Our research informs policies across the world and we work with the United Nations, internationally-renowned organisation tackling real-world issues.
“We live in rapidly changing times, politically, scientifically, economically. The university’s vision to deliver research of global significance remains a constant.
“But we cannot stand still. We believe our unique approach and proven excellence in research will allow us to help solve these problems facing the world now and in the future.”