Design Ecosystem Fellowships

The Design Ecosystem Fellowships are Future Observatory-funded awards for up to six researchers to map transformative design ecosystems in the UK. The aim of the scheme is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of production systems that support environmental sustainability, circular economies and waste reduction – a process that is key to achieving UK and global net zero targets.

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Fellows can apply for funding of up to £20,000 to spend up to six months reporting on a design innovation ecosystem within the UK, including recommendations on how these ecosystems might be enhanced or energised.



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This programme invites researchers to map existing design ecosystems that support environmental sustainability, circular economies, the reduction of waste and achieving net zero goals. Fellows can apply for funding of up to £20,000 to spend up to six months reporting on a design innovation ecosystem within the UK, including recommendations on how these ecosystems might be enhanced or energised.

Proposals must draw on previously existing research carried out by the applicant into the operations, connections and interdependencies within an identified design system.

Fellows will:

  • Identify and map an existing ecosystem in which design research achieves impact through partnerships with, for instance, local authorities and businesses, be it locally or nationally
  • Draw on existing research networks and industry collaborations as a foundation to further investigation
  • Work alongside Future Observatory Programme Director, Curatorial Director and Programme Manager to scope and direct activities across industry, academia and government
  • Develop a deep, broad, and practical understanding of design in relation to production, distribution, consumption, policymaking, and priority areas for future research within a defined geographic area
  • Produce scholarly articles, technical reports, models, maps or datasets to demonstrate an identified ecosystem – written, digital or multimodal formats are welcome. Analysis will be published through Future Observatory channels
  • Support the Future Observatory and graphic design teams to translate findings into a compelling interactive visual format, to be published through Future Observatory and AHRC channels.

Your 6-month fellowship award will cover:

  • Inception phase for project set up, 1 month
  • Investigation and analysis phase, 4 months
  • Reporting and graphic translation phase, 1 month (with an additional two weeks if required)

The fellowship will culminate in the translation of your research into a compelling interactive visualisation, working with the Future Observatory team and leading UK graphic designers. This unique visualisation will allow your research to reach new audiences across government, industry and the public sphere. This will enhance the opportunity to inform decision making on the most pressing policy problems of our time.

We invite applications from all those who have a PhD or equivalent research experience, and expertise in one of the following areas:

  • academic design research
  • the design economy and its diverse sectors
  • systems design
  • innovation and commercialisation policies and processes
  • core UK national priorities around achieving net zero

Future Observatory is committed to creating an open, fair and diverse research environment for all. We invite candidates of all backgrounds to apply for this role. We accept applications from researchers connected to university departments and policy and innovation hubs, as well as independent researchers with a proven track record in research. We actively encourage the mapping of regional ecosystems outside of Greater London.


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