Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Design research

Design is a strategic priority area for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with design research having much to contribute to the UK economy. We fund postdoctoral research in design as well as doctoral training around the country. You can submit research proposals at any time.

Partners involved:
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Design continues to be a strategic priority area for the AHRC. This emphasised our commitment to enhanced partnership working with related organisations and bodies.

Why we're doing it

As evidenced by Valuing Design – AHRC’s collaborative scoping study conducted with the Design Council and ESRC 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 government’s Industrial Strategy white paper.

AHRC-funded design researchers are contributing meaningfully and impactfully to issues as varied as:

It is in this collaborative context that the current and future programmes of funding opportunities are being formulated.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Funding opportunities

Standard (sometimes known as ‘responsive’) funding opportunities are open to a wide range of research and approaches within AHRC’s remit. They operate without formal deadlines, so proposals can be submitted at any time.

We’re keen to point out that theme-specific funding opportunities are not the extent of AHRC support for design research. We’re always happy to see design proposals come in via our standard funding opportunities:

  • research grants
  • fellowships
  • research networking.

Currently funded projects

View all active Design projects funded by the AHRC.

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:

Past projects, outcomes and impact


View past activity on our timeline.

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 and included presentations from:

  • Professor Paul Rodgers
  • AHRC award holders
  • Harry Kerr from the AHRC Design team
  • the host institutions’ research offices.

Design research showcase

From 20 to 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.

The showcase was also included in Design Week magazine’s Top Picks.

Who to contact

Harry Kerr

Telephone: 01793 416040

Last updated: 17 October 2022

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