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Design Research

Design continues to be a strategic priority area for the AHRC, as identified in our 2011-2015 delivery plan, and reiterated in the AHRC Strategy 2013-2018 emphasising our commitment to enhanced partnership working with related organisations and bodies. It is in this collaborative context that the current and future programmes of funding opportunities are being formulated.

Design Council Collaboration

AHRC have been working in partnership with the Design Council over the last four years to look at design research in UK universities, and its connection with businesses and policymakers.

The Value of Design

Together we commissioned a wide-ranging review of the design landscape and available literature. Following an initial broad scoping study, we decided to focus our attention on service design and innovation in services. Both studies can be found on the Design Council website here:

Initial scoping study (Design Council PDF)

You can view the full Scoping Study on Service Design report here (PDF, 714KB)

Innovate UK Collaboration

AHRC and Innovate UK are seeking to further enhance our collaboration in the strategic area of Design.

AHRC is working in partnership with Innovate UK and the Digital Catapult to explore ways of embedding design research, and design thinking more broadly, at the heart of growth strategies for established and emerging digital business clusters. The partners will be conducting a series of workshops over the summer of 2015 to continue to explore ways of working together in this area.

Knowledge Transfer Network: Design Special Interest Group

The AHRC is also working with Innovate UK on their Design Special Interest Group, hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Network, looking at the ways in which Design contributes to innovation in the UK’s business and industrial sectors:

Design Special Interest Group

Developing participation in social design: prototyping projects, programmes and policies

In late 2013 the AHRC commissioned the Social Design Futures report, outlining social design research in the UK.

Building on the recommendations of the report the AHRC has commissioned Professor Guy Julier and Dr Lucy Kimbell to lead the ProtoPublics project, supported by an AHRC Design Research Sprint Workshop and subsequent ‘rapid response’ project development funding.

The aim of this project and associated workshop was to develop proposals that would support the prototyping of new collaborative, cross-disciplinary, design-orientated research which is directed towards achieving societal change and collective outcomes.

Read the ProtoPublics project blog

Current Funding Opportunities

Responsive Mode

We are keen to point out that theme specific calls are not the extent of AHRC support for design. We are always happy to see design proposals come in via our Responsive Mode schemes: Research Grants, Fellowships and Research Networking, all of which operate without formal deadlines so proposals can be submitted at any time.

Past Activities

Currently Active Awards:

Bristol and Bath Design Research Project: A call was developed for a team to carry out an in-depth study examining how businesses and public sector organisations in the Bristol and Bath area use design to drive innovation and increase economic performance. The successful project commenced in July 2014.

Design in Innovation Research Fellowships: This scheme offered design researchers the chance to work in collaboration with a business or public sector organisation that was interested in putting design principles into practice. The successful fellows are able to undertake a research project whilst having unique access to the resources, experiences and networks of the partner organisation. A total of four awards were made in July 2014. Click here to see a list of funded projects (Excel, 12KB).

Collaborative Doctoral Awards in Design 2014: Click here to see a list of funded projects (PDF, 90KB).

Research Grants highlight for Connected Communities and Design: A highlight call was put in place for the Research Grants scheme to encourage the development of research proposals that connect communities, designers and arts and humanities researchers in the co-design and co-production of research. The highlight notice closed in January 2014.

Research Grants highlight call funded project (PDF, 58KB)

Design in Action: KE Hub led by the University of Dundee in partnership with Edinburgh College of Art, Glasgow School of Art, Gray’s School of Art, University of Abertay and the University of St Andrews. Design in Action website.

The Creative Exchange: KE Hub led by Lancaster University in partnership with the University of Newcastle and the Royal College of Art. The Creative Exchange website.

Previously Funded Activity

Digital Design Weekend at the V&A: The V&A's Digital Design Weekend, which coincided with London Design Festival, took place in September 2014 and was a weekend of events celebrating contemporary digital art and design. The Weekend included interactive installations, robotics, tinkering and inventive electronics, workshops, and demonstrations. Professor Jon Rogers (University of Dundee), Professor Andrew Prescott (University of Glasgow and the Digital Transformations Theme Leadership Fellow) and Irini Papdimitriou (V&A) compiled the Open Collaborative Making: A Digital Perspective publication to explore what people are making and what they think about the digital and the future of the digital.

UnBox 2014: The UnBox LABS 2014 was an exciting project that brought together creative practitioners, artists and researchers from the UK & India for a 10-day lab experience that explores the theme of 'FUTURE CITIES'. The project was a collaboration between UnBox, British Council, the AHRC, Science & Innovation Network, supported by the REACT Creative Economy Hub and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India. Find out more about successful applicants.

Design in Innovation: Research Development Funding: The Design in Innovation scheme was launched in late 2013, funding 11 awards of around £50,000 for up to 6 months. The aim was to support research development activities at an earlier stage than is usually the case under other AHRC schemes such as the Research Networking scheme.

Click here to see a list of funded projects (PDF, 115KB).

Design Against Crime led by UaL: Central Saint Martins. Find out about Design Against Crime.


Ian Broadbridge, Strategy and Development Manager (Creative Arts and Digital Humanities): or 01793 416054

Jessica Clark, Portfolio Manager (Creative Arts and Digital Humanities): or 01793 416056

The AHRC works with the UK SBS (Shared Business Service) to deliver all of our funding activities.

Enquiries about Je-S registration or completing proposal forms should be directed to or 01793 444 164