15 Oct 2013

Design for life: new research funding for PhD designers

Britain’s status as a global design leader has been given a boost with a new scheme to fund research into design to help society.

The Design Star Consortium has been awarded £2.2million by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to fund 60 PhD researchers over the next five years. The award – which will be matched with a similar amount by universities – is one of 11 new long-term funding partnerships announced by the AHRC today (15 October 2013).

Design Star is led by the University of Reading in collaboration with Loughborough, Brighton, Goldsmiths and The Open University.

It is hoped the scheme will develop the design research leaders of the future, equipping them with the research skills and knowledge to improve design across sectors including environment, transport, democratic participation, science and technology, healthcare, and creative production.

Along with five leading university design departments, the consortium includes members from government, business and public sector services who all hope to benefit from access to high-quality design research, including the core partners:
• West Berkshire NHS Primary Care Trust
• Milton Keynes Council
• Policy Connect
• Spy Design
• Maybourne Projects Ltd
• The V&A
• Design Museum
• Monotype
• Intel Labs
• Microsoft Research

Professor Sue Walker, University of Reading, who led the bid said:

“Britain has built a global reputation on great design – from Stevenson’s Rocket to the Tube map, the Mini and, more recently, the award-winning ‘’ website. By helping the next generation of design researchers, we hope to create a new wave of design innovation.

“We are delighted that AHRC has agreed to fund Design Star. We believe our students will become design researchers who are confident in tackling real-world problems through working in teams that cross traditional subject disciplines, and in communicating widely about what they do.

“By studying the history, theory and practice of design, they will be able to carry out the very best kind of research – that which leads to improvements in the ways we live our lives every day.”


The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

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