Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Design Exchange Partnerships: design the green transition round two

Apply for funding to develop design-led solutions to address specific challenges facing biodiversity in the UK.

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

We welcome broad interpretations of the theme of biodiversity, including but not limited to one or more of the following areas:

  • natural resources
  • materials
  • land or marine use
  • health and wellbeing
  • regeneration and planning

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £62,500 for six months or £125,000 for 12 months, plus a five to 10% contribution from the non-academic partner organisation. AHRC will fund 80% FEC.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

Who is eligible to apply

Each project will involve:

  • one early career arts and humanities design research associate (including those undertaking doctoral studies in an arts and humanities design-led discipline). For this funding opportunity we are taking a flexible approach to defining early career and will accept proposals including research associates at other career stages who can justify the value of this project to their own development. This position is open to job share arrangements
  • at least one academic supervisor
  • at least one non-academic organisation with a specific challenge relevant to the overarching theme of ‘design the green transition’, which can be addressed through the ongoing application of design-led research carried out by the research associate

The research associate and supervisor must be based at a UK research organisation that is eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

While the supervisor will have oversight of the project and will be the principal investigator for the purposes of administering the award, we expect the majority of intellectual leadership to come from the research associate. This must be demonstrated in the proposal and throughout the course of the award, if successful.

Non-academic partners must be either a micro or small and medium-sized enterprise-sized, UK registered business, charity or not-for-profit similarly sized department of a public sector organisation.

We welcome part-time applicants (minimum of 0.6 full-time equivalent).

Job share applications for the research associate will be considered provided:

  • both candidates can demonstrate a suitable arts and humanities-led design research background
  • both associates participate to an equal extent in all aspects of the project
  • clear and robust handover and communication arrangements are in place

The lead research organisation may make multiple applications for this programme, but each application must be substantively different in both partnership team and project objectives.

The named research associates, supervisors and non-academic partner may participate in only one application for this programme.

Who is not eligible to apply

Subcontractors are not eligible for this funding opportunity.

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

Scope

Design Exchange Partnerships (DEPs) are three-way collaborative projects which seek to demonstrate tangible impact on local communities by stimulating the real-world application of high-quality arts and humanities-led design research to address challenges related to achieving green transition goals.

DEPs aim to:

  • stimulate strategic partnerships that support career development and the development of hybrid skills
  • increase the diversity of voices and actors consulted in and contributing to addressing the climate crisis
  • enable the development of new products and services that have a positive impact in the real-world

For this round, we are focusing on developing design-led solutions to address specific challenges facing biodiversity in the UK. Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth, including species, sub-species, and ecosystems.

The UK government recognises that the UK’s transition to net zero must be supported by a joined-up approach to halting biodiversity loss. This includes ensuring the natural environment is “protected, enhanced, and more diverse, with healthy ecosystems and increased biodiversity, supporting a sustainable rural economy and providing wider benefits, including improved mental health and protection from risks like flooding and overheating”. See the Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener (October 2021).

We welcome broad interpretations of the theme of biodiversity, including but not limited to one or more of the following areas:

  • natural resources
  • materials
  • land or marine use
  • health and wellbeing
  • regeneration and planning

Projects may focus on any challenges or areas that will support progress towards green transition goals, including but not limited to any combination of:

  • human, such as improving the design and delivery of green policies and initiatives to more effectively support behaviour change
  • technical, such as design and testing of new prototypes or other interventions that advance technology readiness levels (TRLs)
  • economic or commercial, such as design of new business models or interventions that advance market readiness levels (MRLs)
  • structural, such as infrastructure planning and decarbonisation provision

Find out more about TRLs and MRLs from Innovate UK.

We welcome proposals for, and will support a diverse portfolio showcasing, a range of different types of design intervention, from product or service level innovation through to strategic, systems-level design thinking.

The project should demonstrate human-centred design research processes and thinking. You can include activities to:

  • develop high-value innovation opportunities and define what makes a desirable, fit-for-purpose solution
  • create ideas for new or significantly improved products or services
  • test and improve ideas by using fast, low-cost visuals, prototypes or simulations
  • clearly communicate ideas ready for further investment, and research and development activity
  • understand human motivations and behaviour through, for example, observation, interviews, role-play and workshops

Projects should demonstrate clear pathways to measurable outcomes of benefit to all partners both within the project period and beyond.

Named applicant

The principal investigator must be the named academic supervisor, who must evidence institutional support for the project.

Assessors will need to see evidence of support from all stakeholders in the project, including all higher education institutions and non-academic partners.

Research associate

The application should demonstrate how the research associate will benefit from the project from a skills development perspective. The associate must be named in the application at the time of submission (they cannot be recruited to the project post-award) and their research background, interests and qualifications must be central to the project partnership and development.

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

Duration

The duration of this award is either six months or 12 months depending on the level of funding.

Projects must start by 1 February 2024. All projects must be concluded no later than 31 January 2025.

Funding available

The FEC of your project can be up to £62,500 for six months or £125,000 for 12 months.

AHRC will fund 80% FEC.

In addition, the non-academic partner is required to provide a minimum contribution of 10% of the FEC (5% for micro organisations, defined in the GOV.UK Department for International Trade small and medium-sized enterprises action plan. Part of this contribution can be in-kind, up to 5% of the FEC.

What we will not fund

For this funding opportunity, we are not seeking proposals based solely in technical design disciplines such as engineering design and design for manufacture, although we welcome creatively-led projects incorporating technical aspects.

We are not seeking proposals aimed at creating visual identity elements, graphics or style guides, unless these are essential to the creation of a new product or service.

Projects that do not engage directly with the theme or seek to develop a generic approach to a wider green transition challenge will be considered outside of the scope of this funding opportunity.

How to apply

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service

We are running the funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply for this funding opportunity on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

If you do not already have an account with the UKRI Funding Service, you will be able to create one by selecting the ‘start application’ button at the start of this page. Creating an account is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.

If you are a member of an organisation with a research office that we do not have contact details for, we will contact them to enable administrator access. This provides:

  • oversight of every UKRI Funding Service application opened on behalf of your organisation
  • the ability to review and submit applications

Research offices that have not already received an invitation to open an account should email support@funding-service.ukri.org

Submitting your application

Applications should be prepared and submitted by the lead research organisation but should be co-created with input from all investigators, and project partners, and should represent the proposed work of the entire consortia.

To apply:

  1. Select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page.
  2. This will open the ‘Sign in’ page of UKRI’s Funding Service. If you do not already have an account, you’ll be able to create one. This is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.
  3. Start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later. You can also work ‘offline’, copying and pasting into the text boxes provided for your answers.
  4. Once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review. They’ll check it and return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Once happy, your research office will submit it to UKRI for assessment. Only they can do this.

As citations can be integral to a case for support, you should balance their inclusion and the benefit they provide against the inclusion of other parts of your answer to each question. Bear in mind that citations, associated reference lists or bibliographies, or both, contribute to, and are included in, the word count of the relevant section.

Deadline

AHRC must receive your application by 14 September 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

General text on 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.

General text on outcomes publication

AHRC will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity on the Future Observatory website.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance

Summary

In plain English, provide a summary that can be sent to potential reviewers to determine if your proposal is within their field of expertise.

This summary may be made publicly available on external facing websites, so please ensure it can be understood by a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the general public
  • the wider research community
Guidance for writing a summary

Succinctly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • its context
  • the challenge the project addresses and how it will be applied to this
  • its aims and objectives
  • its potential applications and benefits

Word count: 550

Applicants

List the key members of your team and assign them roles, for example:

  • principal investigator
  • co-investigator

You should only list one individual as principal investigator.

Vision

Question: what are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the fields or areas
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment
  • demonstrate clear relevance and fit to the aims and theme of the Design Exchange Partnerships programme

Within the ‘vision’ section we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be
  • demonstrate how your proposed project will generate measurable environmental and social impacts. Applications may also demonstrate commercial outcomes and impacts, but environmental and social benefits should be foregrounded

Word count: 500

Approach

Question: how are you going to deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you have designed your approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • if applicable, uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location, and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

Within the ‘approach’ section we also expect you to:

  • demonstrate access to the appropriate services, facilities, infrastructure, or equipment to deliver the proposal
  • provide a detailed and comprehensive project plan including milestones and timelines in the form of a Gantt chart or similar (please include in the attachment upload, maximum one side of A4 for the project plan)
  • include a theory of change diagram outlining how the project will impact its beneficiaries and the impact it aims to have (only required for projects with a proposed duration of 12 months, please include in the attachment upload, maximum one side of A4 for the diagram)

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Question: why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and approach to developing others

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you, and if relevant your team (investigators, researchers, other (technical) staff for example research software engineers, data scientists and so on, and partners), have and how this will help to deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings. You should use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You can enter N/A for any you think irrelevant, and will not be penalised for doing so, but it is recommended that you carefully consider the breadth of your experience:

The R4RI module headings are:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit
  • additions (you can use this heading to provide information which provides context to the wider application, such as detail of career breaks. It is not a requirement)

You should complete this as a narrative and you should avoid CV type format.

Word count: 1,500

Resources and cost justification

Question: what will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Download the FEC template (DOCX, 97KB), complete it and then upload it.

Using the text box, demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

This section should not simply be a list of the resources requested, as this will already be given in the detailed ‘costs’ table. Costings should be justified on the basis of FEC of the project, not just on the costs expected from UKRI. For some items we do not expect you to justify the monetary value, rather the type of resource, such as amount of time or type of staff requested.

Where you do not provide adequate justification for a resource, we may deduct it from any funding awarded.

You should identify:

  • support for activities to either increase impact, for public engagement, knowledge exchange or to support responsible innovation
  • support for access to facilities, infrastructure or procurement of equipment
  • support from your organisation or partner organisations and how that enhances value for money. Please provide details of your non-academic partner’s contribution

Word count: 1,000

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Question: what are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how you will manage them.

If you are collecting or using data you should identify:

  • any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical considerations and, in particular, strategies taken to not preclude further reuse of data
  • formal information standards with which study will be compliant

Word count: 750

Public engagement

Question: provide details of plans for public engagement. You only need to complete this section if you are applying for a proposed duration of 12 months. If you are not, enter ‘N/A’ in the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next question.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed work:

  • demonstrates quality and appropriateness of plans for public engagement with research, including equitable partnerships with clearly targeted public audiences that bring public partners into the research process through innovative public engagement methods and strategies
  • will measure the impact of the success of applying design research and innovation to diverse sectors of industry and the public sector
  • supports the next generation (of researchers) so they become more adept at engaging with green transition challenges

Word count: 1,000

Training and development

Question: provide details of training and development support. You only need to complete this section if you are applying for a proposed duration of 12 months. If you are not, enter ‘N/A’ in the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next question.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed work:

  • supports the provision of training and development opportunities for the research associate
  • supports the provision of training and development opportunities for the non-academic partner

Word count: 750

Your organisation’s support

Question: provide details of support from your research organisation.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a statement of support from your research organisation detailing why the proposed work is needed. This should include details of any matched funding that will be provided to support the activity and any additional support that might add value to the work.

The committee will be looking for a strong statement of commitment from your research organisation.

AHRC recognises that in some instances, this information may be provided by the research office, the technology transfer office (TTO) or equivalent, or a combination of both.

You must also include the following details:

  • a significant person’s name and their position, from the TTO or research office, or both
  • office address or web link

Word count: 500

Project partners: contributions

Question: provide details about any project partners’ contributions using the template provided.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

It is a requirement of the funding opportunity to have project partners. Download and complete the project partner contributions template (DOCX, 52KB) then copy and paste the table within it into the text box.

Ensure you have obtained prior agreement from project partners that, should you be offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the template.

Word count: 1,000

Project partners: letters (or emails) of support

Question: upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the table in the previous ‘contributions’ section.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

I It is a requirement of the funding opportunity to have project partners.

Enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box.

Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project

Please refer to AHRC’s guide for more guidance.

Please do not provide letters of support from host and co-investigator’s research organisations.

Unless specifically requested, please do not include any personal data within the attachment.

Upload details are provided within the service on the actual application.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Word count: 5

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Panel

We will invite experts to collectively review your application against the criteria and rank it alongside other applications after which the panel will make a funding recommendation.

All other assessment criteria being equal, AHRC will take funding decisions to ensure a balanced and representative portfolio of projects.

Timescale

You should expect to receive notification of a decision by 20 December 2023, with project start dates no later than 1 February 2024.

Feedback

We will give feedback with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment criteria

What we are looking for

Section: vision

Have the applicants demonstrated how the work they are proposing:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the fields or areas
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • will impact world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment
  • demonstrate clear relevance and fit to the aims and theme of the Design Exchange Partnerships programme
Section: approach

Have the applicants demonstrated that they have designed their approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve their objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • if applicable, uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how their, and if applicable their team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the proposed work
Section: applicant and team capability to deliver

Have the applicants provided evidence of how they, and if relevant their team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and approach to developing others
Section: resources and cost justification

Have the applicants demonstrated how the resources they anticipate needing for their proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts
Section: ethics and responsible research and innovation

Have the applicants identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, or both, and how they will be managed.

Section: public engagement (only required for projects with a proposed duration of 12 months)

Have the applicants demonstrated how the work they are proposing:

  • shows quality and appropriateness of plans for public engagement with research, including equitable partnerships with clearly targeted public audiences that bring public partners into the research process through innovative public engagement methods and strategies
  • will measure the impact of the success of applying design research and innovation to diverse sectors of industry and the public sector
  • supports the next generation (of researchers) so they become more adept at engaging with green transition challenges
Section: training and development (only required for projects with a proposed duration of 12 months)

Have the applicants provided evidence of how they, and if relevant their team:

  • supports the provision of training and development opportunities for the research associate
  • supports the provision of training and development opportunities for the non-academic partner

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

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

Additional info

Background

The UK government has now set in law the world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. It aims to bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero plus by 2050.

Realising this ambition requires targeted innovation across a multidisciplinary sectorial spectrum. There is a growing recognition of the role of design-led solutions and the role of design researchers as facilitators of the necessary multi and interdisciplinary innovation.

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) current priority of building a sustainable, productive net zero economy provides an opportunity to both inform research in this area and to demonstrate the value of design research in driving innovation to support progress towards green transition goals.

AHRC is seeking to explore the potential of design thought leadership for the green transition through the establishment of a national Design Exchange Partnerships (DEPs) network.

The challenges presented in making progress towards green transition goals impact the day-to-day lives of people and communities across the UK. We actively encourage DEP proposals that seek to demonstrate tangible impact on these local communities. In particular, we are keen to see this in places where investment can make the biggest difference to everyday life.

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 DEPs, 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.

Browse examples of DEP projects funded under the pilot and round one.

Webinar for potential applicants

Programme launch workshop (16 May 2023)

This will provide an opportunity to hear more from AHRC and Future Observatory, the aims of the scheme, how DEPs fit into the overall ‘Future Observatory: design the green transition’ programme and inspiration about interpreting the theme.

You will be able to:

  • identify whether the scheme is a good fit for your project or partnership
  • hear more about the opportunities of academic, industry or public sector collaborations
  • receive guidance and inspiration about interpreting the theme
  • ask questions

Register for the workshop on Eventbrite. A recording will be available after the event.

Application development surgeries (4 and 5 July 2023)

Delivered by AHRC and Future Observatory, these 15-minute sessions will provide an opportunity for you to talk through your proposed project and partnership and receive pre-application feedback and suggestions.

Register for the application development surgeries on Eventbrite.

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