Design Foundations Round 2: Net Zero Environments
Up to £4m for projects that use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to transform where we live and work into net zero places.
Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £4 million in innovation projects that use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to transform where we live and work into net zero places. This funding is from Innovate UK.
The aim of this competition is to help businesses use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to lay the foundations for innovative ideas with the potential to deliver significant benefits. The purpose of this will be to support the transformation of our homes and places of work into net zero environments. These can be ideas for new or significantly improved products, services, places or business models.
Eligible organisations can apply for funding to use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to:
- improve existing innovative ideas
- generate new ideas in response to a known need or opportunity
- identify new opportunities to innovate and plan how to respond to them
Your proposal must look at the need or opportunity from the perspective of the people involved. You must make sure that proposed solutions are more desirable and beneficial and, as such, are more likely to be adopted or to result in net zero-supportive behaviour change.
Applications are encouraged from organisations that have not previously used people-centred and planet-centred design processes or expertise. We encourage you to work with design experts to get the best results and to develop your own understanding and capabilities.
This competition is split into 2 strands:
- Design Foundations Round 2, strand 1: Responsive. Projects that use people-centred and system-aware approaches to develop new or significantly improved services, products, places or business models
- Design Foundations Round 2, strand 2 (this strand): Net Zero Environments. Projects that use planet-centred or system-aware approaches to consider nature as a stakeholder, to design beneficial solutions within the limits of planetary resources and ecosystems
It is your responsibility to ensure you submit your application to the correct strand for your project. You will not be able to transfer your application and it will not be sent for assessment if it is out of scope.
If you are unsure which strand is most suitable for your application, contact Innovate UK KTN’s Design team for assistance.
To lead a project your organisation must:
- be a UK registered business of any size, charity, not-for-profit, or public sector organisation
- collaborate with other UK registered organisations
To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK registered:
- business of any size
- academic institution
- public sector organisation
- research and technology organisation (RTO)
Your project team must include appropriate expertise in people-centred and system-aware design. Lead organisations without this capability are encouraged to work with designers as project partners or subcontractors.
A business of any size, charity, not-for-profit or public sector organisation can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.
If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.
Applications are encouraged from organisations that have not previously used people-centred and planet-centred design processes or expertise. We encourage applicants to work with design experts as partners or subcontractors to get the best results and to develop their own understanding and design capabilities.
Your project must:
- have a total grant funding request between £40,000 and £80,000
- start by 1 December 2023
- end by 31 May 2024
- last between 3 months and 6 months
- carry out its project work in the UK, however user research in international target markets can be undertaken
- intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
Lead organisations must agree to contribute up to two days in support of Innovate UK activities to promote the use of people-centred and planet-centred design, or to help us improve our products and services. This activity could include, for example, taking part in interviews, supporting the creation of case studies or contributing to seminars or showcases. You will not be required to share confidential information or intellectual property.
The aim of this competition is to help businesses use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to lay the foundations for innovative ideas with the potential to deliver significant benefits. These can be ideas for new or significantly improved products, services, places or business models.
To be within scope for the net zero round of this competition, your proposal must fall within one or more of the following 3 categories:
- Defining innovation opportunities: You will use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to identify, understand and prioritise needs and innovation opportunities that are relevant and valuable to your business. You will plan innovation activity to respond to them, including by generating, testing and improving new ideas as described above.
- Generating new ideas: You recognise a specific need or opportunity to innovate and will use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to verify and respond to it by generating new or improved ideas.
- Testing and improving ideas: You have an innovative idea and will use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to simulate, test and improve the quality of the experience and benefits that it offers at every stage of its lifecycle.
To be within scope for this competition, your proposal must also meet the following criterion:
- Net Zero Environments: You must use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to identify, understand and prioritise needs and innovation opportunities which have the potential to transform where we live and work into net zero places.
Your project must explore opportunities and ideas from the perspective of the people and socio-technical systems who will be involved with, or affected by them, in the context of the transition to a net zero economy. Their experiences, motivations and behaviour must be allowed to shape the challenge and ideas. This is to make sure that:
- the most important, urgent and valuable problems and opportunities are being addressed
- proposed solutions are more desirable, equitable, beneficial and supportive of net zero living
- new ideas are more likely to be adopted and promote positive changes in behaviour
You must include activities to identify and involve relevant stakeholders sufficiently early and at appropriate points throughout the project. Your project team should reflect the characteristics, culture and lived experiences of the people they are designing for, or take steps to bring those perspectives into the project in a meaningful and relevant way.
Projects that use planet-centred or system-aware approaches to consider nature as a stakeholder, and to design beneficial solutions within the limits of planetary resources and ecosystems are particularly encouraged. These projects must also take account of people’s motivations and behaviour, so that ideas have the best chance of being adopted and realising their potential.
Any prototyping activity within your project must:
- focus primarily on making discoveries about the quality of experience, the likelihood of the idea being adopted or its potential to promote positive changes in behaviour which support the net zero agenda
- be as quick and low-cost as possible, and aim for the lowest level of fidelity or functionality necessary to get the required feedback
- be used to share ideas and make discoveries early in the design process, so they can be acted on before it becomes prohibitively expensive or time consuming to do so
Once the project has started successful applicants are encouraged to respond to findings emerging from the project and new discoveries made during the research and design process. This might include abandoning or rethinking your original ideas and changing the focus of planned R&D activity. Innovate UK will consider well-justified project change requests submitted via a project’s allocated monitoring service provider.
Your project must focus on net zero living, but may also cut across one or more of the following:
- health and wellbeing
- food and agriculture, except in primary production
- application of advanced digital and other technologies
This list is not exhaustive.
A full list of exclusions is available at the competition page. Of particular note are that Innovate UK will not fund projects that:
- are the design of experiments, policies or research methodologies
- focus on the final finish or specification of an idea where fundamental design decisions have already been made
- seek only to validate technical feasibility or progress the technology readiness level of an idea, rather than improving it
- include a prototype which requires a majority of the project cost or time to build
- are intended primarily to test technical feasibility or performance rather than the customer experience and benefits
If in doubt about whether your project is eligible, please consult Innovate UK KTN’s Design team.
Innovate UK KTN held a briefing on 15th June: click here to watch the recording.
This strand of Design Foundations has been developed with the explicit aim of embedding design activity in business communities relevant to Innovate UK’s Net Zero domain, outlined in its Plan for Action.
Innovate UK suggest the following resources to learn more about people-centred and planet-centred design:
- Innovate UK’s Design in Innovation Strategy 2020-2024
- Innovate UK KTN Design Innovation Network (this is free to join)
- Design Council tools and frameworks
- IDEO Human Centred Design
- Interaction Design Foundation
- Stanford d.school resources
For further queries, please consult Innovate UK KTN’s Design team.