Design Foundations Round 3: What makes a good application?

Posted on: 13/08/2018

Knowing what distinguishes Design Foundations from other Innovate UK competitions will help you get the most out of the opportunity.

Design Foundations Round 3 funding is live here, and you can submit your application before 19th September.

Design Foundations is about investing in the validation of ideas. Ideas are just ideas, but implementing or delivering an innovation is more complex. The best innovations are more complex and intricate than just the idea itself. The result of a creative process that allows for rapid testing and iterative refinement can build an idea into an innovation. Essentially this is all done at an early stage, prior to any significant investment, when it is cheap to fail fast, try again until the concept is refined and shown to be viable.

Innovations with the greatest impact tend to be founded on a thorough understanding of customer behaviour and motivations. So, there is an expectation of adopting a human-centred, rather than a technology-led, approach in these early stages of the innovation process. Why? Because, ultimately, people don’t buy technology Рthey buy what technology does for them. Design mediates the supply of new possibilities presented by technology by better understanding the demand, needs and desires of others, be they users, customers, suppliers or investors. Some of the expected activities and outputs (Q2) may include:

  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Focus groups
  • Ethnographic research
  • Iterative prototyping and testing
  • Ideation workshops

Design Foundations is not about supporting business as usual or underwriting projects that were going to happen anyway, but finding ways in which design can bring different perspectives to how a business develops. The approach can be disruptive and it may mean challenging held assumptions about your business and its approach. You may want to make the principles stated in this article abundantly clear in the application questions, shown below:

1.     Project motivation and objectives

2.     Project activities and outputs (+ optional 2 page appendix e.g. GANNT chart)

3.     Team and resources (+ optional 2 page appendix e.g. Biogs)

4.     Risks

5.     Additionality

6.     Value for money


Below are (or will be) recordings of the briefing events webcasts which will provide detailed information about the competition expectations and application process that may help you write a well constructed application:

Briefing event webcast

Guidance for first time applicants

Guidance for designers

Guidance for re-applicants


Beyond Design Foundations… if you are successful

On completing a Foundation project, your business is likely to be better positioned to address investors’ and customers’ needs regarding a particular new venture or proposition. This may be in relation to approaching private investors or refining a subsequent application to a specific Innovate UK, sector-related, competition. Talk to one of the KTN design team if you require further support.

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