Exploitation of microbes, especially fungi, has the potential to help humankind meet the UN’s sustainable development goals, help feed the worlds growing population and improve bioeconomies of poorer nations. The majority of the world’s fungal genetic resources are held in collections in developed countries, primarily within the USA, Europe and Japan. Very little capacity exists in low to middle income countries, which are often rich in biodiversity but lack resources to be able to conserve and exploit their own microbial resources. In this paper we review the current challenges facing culture collections and the challenges of integrating new approaches, the worth of collaborative networks, and the importance of technology, taxonomy and data handling. We address the need to underpin research and development in developing countries through the need to build ‘in country’ infrastructure to address these challenges, whilst tackling the global challenges to meet the requirements of the research community through the impacts of legislation and the Nagoya protocol on access to biological resources.