Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Engineering design

This area looks at theories, methods and tools for generating, modelling, optimising, simulating and reasoning about complex engineered systems.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Engineering Design encompasses theories, methods and tools for generating, modelling, optimising, simulating and reasoning about complex engineered systems. This includes products, processes, systems and product-service systems.

Core to our strategy in this area is a continued support for fundamental, multidisciplinary research and encouragement of a research model where innovation is driven by discoveries. We will build on current investments.

We aim to encourage a strategic focus towards engineering design research that underpins the creation and translation of emerging manufacturing technologies. For example, digital manufacturing will require a more integrated, seamless approach to engineering design research across the entire supply chain.

An established community in this research area with the skills necessary to adapt to the changing UK landscape is another goal. This includes either a champion or a group or both, able to raise awareness of the underpinning nature of engineering design. Another aim is to embed engineering design across sectors and encourage research into fundamental tools and methodologies that will aid industrial adoption and address challenges related to the circular economy, sustainability and resource efficiency.

We also wish to promote opportunities for research across interfaces and via international collaboration. The crosscutting nature of engineering design is reflected in our portfolio in this area. A significant proportion of research is relevant to one or more sectors and across research councils, especially the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Why we're doing it

The emergence of digital manufacturing will require new ways of designing products, processes and systems. The potential of engineering design to contribute in this field is being recognised globally.

Capability is thinly spread across the UK. Only a small number of universities host significant activity. Since 2011, EPSRC investment in critical mass activities in this research area has reduced, resulting in a loss of capacity and identity. The availability of people, and the skills or expertise necessary to adapt to the changing UK landscape remains a concern.

Engineering design has a strong base in the UK. This is evidenced by UK contributions to and leadership of conferences and journal series such as:

  • Design Studies
  • Journal of Engineering Design
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • Journal of Mechanical Design
  • Research in Engineering Design.

The UK’s unique capability lies in developing underpinning theories (for example, design theory) and methodologies.

Design research underpins a number of sectors important to the UK economy and plays a critical role in contributing to the UK’s overall productivity. This is evidenced by the Cox Review of Creativity in Business, the Aerospace Technology Institute’s (ATI’s) Technology Strategy and the five year joint Programme for Simulation and Innovation (PSi) between Jaguar Land Rover and EPSRC.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Engineering Design.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 16 January 2023

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.