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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. As evidenced by The Value of Design, AHRC’s collaborative scoping study conducted with the Design Council and ESRC back in 2014, design research has much to contribute to the UK economy.

Design research is proving invaluable to meeting the Grand Challenges outlined in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund white paper; AHRC-funded design researchers are contributing meaningfully and impactfully to issues as varied as antimicrobial resistance, migration and healthy ageing. It is in this collaborative context that the current and future programmes of funding opportunities are being formulated.

Past Activity

Ananya Jahanara Kabir
Click on the image to open the 'Past Activity' Design timeline in a new window. Then select the white arrow on the right, to move along the timeline.

Present Activity

Next Generation Design

In January 2017, AHRC appointed Professor Paul Rodgers as our Priority Area Leadership Fellow for Design. Since December 2017, he has been leading a series of workshops and talks around the country entitled Next Generation Design. The workshops were aimed at early career design researchers - EC[D]Rs - and comprised presentations from Paul, AHRC award-holders, Harry Kerr from the AHRC Design team and the host institutions’ research offices. Many of these presentations can be seen on the Design Research for Change website.

Design Centres for Doctoral Training

The AHRC doesn’t just fund postdoctoral research in design; we understand the importance of fostering talent as early as possible, and to that end we fund four design-focused centres for doctoral training. These are consortia which comprise research organisations throughout the country:

  • 3D3 - Falmouth University, Plymouth University and the University of the West of England
  • London Doctoral Design Centre - the Royal College of Art, Kingston University and University of the Arts London
  • Northumbria-Sunderland
  • Design Star - Brighton University, Goldsmiths, Loughborough University, the Open University and the University of Reading.

Currently funded projects

AHRC Design Research Showcase

From 20-23 September 2018, as part of the London Design Fair, Room H12 of the Old Truman Brewery in London hosted the AHRC Design Research Showcase. A diverse range of projects from the last decade of Design research was exhibited over three days, and an accompanying catalogue gave updates and insights to many more projects funded by AHRC. An online edition of the catalogue can be found on the Design Research for Change website, as well as photos and visitor comments. The Showcase was also included in Design Week magazine’s Top Picks.

Current Funding Opportunities

Responsive Mode

We are keen to point out that theme-specific calls are not the extent of AHRC support for design research. 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. Design is an enormously collaborative discipline, and applications submitted to the AHRC, led by design researchers, have addressed issues across the spectrum of the arts and humanities. On the right-hand side of the graphic below, you can see all the various disciplines which have been secondary and tertiary classifications on design projects submitted to the AHRC over the last few years.

Design flow chart
Infographic showing how the Design discipline leads research to a spectrum of arts and humanities issues.


Harry Kerr, Portfolio Manager (Creative Arts and Digital Humanities): harry.kerr@ahrc.ukri.org or 01793 416040.

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 JeSHelp@rcuk.ac.uk or 01793 444 164