Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: Design Accelerators round three

Apply for funding to undertake design-led solutions to address the climate crisis or net zero goals. Funding will be provided to support engagement activities with local communities, public and third sector organisations.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for AHRC funding.

Design Accelerators connect directly with the wider Future Observatory: Design the Green Transition Programme.

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be between £35,000 and £65,000. AHRC will fund 80% of the FEC.

The maximum duration of these awards is nine months.

This is a pre-announcement, and the information may be subject to change. This funding opportunity will open on 1 July 2024. More information will be available on this page then.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

Job share candidates for the project lead will be considered, provided they meet the below criteria for the role:

  • at least one candidate can demonstrate a suitable arts and humanities-led design research background
  • both candidates are based at the same (independent) research organisation
  • both candidates participate to an equal extent in all aspects of the project
  • clear and robust handover and communication arrangements are in place

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for


Design is a discipline that applies user, customer, citizen or community-centred approaches to creativity and invention to ensure more successful outcomes. These may include the built environment, physical products, digital or other services and systems that underpin how we live. Success in this context may mean economic, social, environmental, or a combination of all three.

In collaboration with Future Observatory, the programme’s engagement centre based at the Design Museum, funding will be provided to support engagement between design research and innovation projects and diverse private, public, and third sector organisations, local communities, and the general public to:

  • identify effective routes to commercialisation and adoption through targeted demonstration of high-quality design research and innovation
  • promote green transition-supportive behaviour change, either through deliberative policy making and (de)regulation or through “nudging”
  • highlight the value of academic design research in addressing real-world, locally relevant challenges arising along the journey to net zero and a green economy


Design Accelerators are small scale, reactive projects that are designed to support engagement between design research and innovation projects and diverse private, public and third sector organisations, local communities, and the general public.

Design Accelerators should intend to:

  • demonstrate how the design research and innovation at universities throughout the country is vital for their local communities’ successful transition to net zero and a green economy
  • speed up the implementation of outputs by developing them with key local stakeholders
  • increase the diversity of voices and actors consulted in and contributing to addressing the climate crisis

For more information on the background of this funding opportunity, go to the Additional information section.


The duration of these awards is up to nine months.

Projects must start by 1 February 2025.

Funding available

The FEC of your project can be between £35,000 and £65,000.

AHRC will fund 80% of the FEC.

What we will fund

Design Accelerators may focus on supporting any engagement activity with local stakeholders that will support progress towards green transition goals, including but not limited to:

  • a short-term series of workshops or seminars
  • networking activities
  • outreach activities that encourage and enable researchers to involve individuals or organisations outside of academic research in the discussion and development of ideas
  • community-based product testing
  • community engagement coordinating role or activity

Please note that applications should be specific about the details of the proposed activities, be these coordinated programme activities or a standalone activity.

Projects should demonstrate clear pathways to measurable outcomes of benefit to local stakeholders both within the project lifetime and beyond.

What we will not fund

Applications that are not primarily rooted within the design discipline. Applications must comprise, and evidence at least 50% design discipline coverage.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service so please ensure that your organisation is registered. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system. We will publish full details on how to apply when the funding opportunity opens.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:


AHRC must receive your application by 3 October 2024 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the submission of your application to the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected.

Personal data

Processing personal data

AHRC as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your Funding Service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Publication of outcomes

AHRC as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at Design Accelerators (Future Observatory).

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact details

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact the AI and Design team email:

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.


Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

You can also find information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please contact the AI and Design team email:

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info


It has been acknowledged that however valuable a stock of knowledge a university might possess, this does not mean that local businesses and non-academic organisations are either aware, able to access, or utilise it effectively. Supported by data from Research England’s Knowledge Exchange Dashboard, more work is needed to exploit the high-quality outputs from the UK’s world-leading, multidisciplinary research and innovation community in bolstering local growth and regeneration – a challenge compounded by the urgency of the climate crisis. Greater connectivity between researchers and their co-located non-academic communities, and an enhanced ability to demonstrate the value of sustainable innovation to local communities, is key to achieving net zero and a green economy.

As part of AHRC’s new £25 million programme, Future Observatory: Design the Green Transition, the Design Accelerator awards are an opportunity to continue this work and to close the gap between climate-positive design research and its application in real-world scenarios. With multiple regions in all devolved nations of the UK represented, this will support AHRC’s developing Commercialisation strategy and embed the UK Research and Development Roadmap’s objective to “ensure that more parts of the UK are attractive to private investment – including from overseas – to unlock their full potential for R&D growth”.

Future Observatory

Future Observatory is a new national programme of research, debate, and training to show how design research can drive Britain’s future prosperity.

With a dedicated team and using the Design Museum as its hub, the programme brings design researchers together with the partners who can help them have an impact on achieving the nation’s environmental goals. Using design as its engine, this major programme aims to set the agenda for social and technological change in Britain.

Future Observatory will act as the engagement hub for the programme, providing opportunities for showcasing research, running events for award holders as well as networking opportunities and the chance to help shape the conversation around the UK’s green transition.

Find out more about previously funded Design Accelerator projects.

Webinar for potential applicants

We will hold a question and answer (Q&A) meeting on 11 June 2024 at 11:00am UK time. This will provide an opportunity to hear more from AHRC and Future Observatory, the aims of the funding opportunity, and a chance to ask questions. The Q&A meeting will be recorded, and a copy will be published on this page.

Join the Q&A meeting via Zoom

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