Funding for Early-Stage Design

Design Foundations is a new £3m grant funding programme from Innovate UK to help businesses identify innovation opportunities and generate better propositions for desirable, useful and feasible products, services and business models.

The aim is to build collaborations between businesses looking for new ways to innovate, and designers with the creative tools to provide this insight. It means using design interventions to address critical business challenges such as:

Identify and tackle the right problems

  • By developing contextual understanding of human behaviour and motivations, of complex stakeholder eco-systems and future market drivers.

Explore better ideas with lower risk

  • By identifying viable routes to market including cross-sector opportunities
  • By generating more ideas for desirable products, services and business models
  • By quickly simulating and testing new propositions with minimal investment

Get clarity & buy-in

  • By communicating the benefits of a novel technology to investors and customers
  • By uniting teams behind a clear, compelling vision/roadmap

Boost innovation capability

  • By experiencing the design process first-hand, embedding learning, adopting new processes and becoming better buyers and users of design.

Why use early stage design in innovation?

Early-stage design encompasses the various activities undertaken to arrive at a range of good ideas, which may then be further developed and refined towards commercialisation. The ideas may relate to products (physical or digital), services or even business models.

Such activity is distinct from engineering design or styling which typically occurs later in a project and involves the refinement and final specification of a product or service.

Ideas with the greatest potential are founded on a thorough understanding of customer behavior and motivations. Adopting a human-centred, rather than a technology-led, approach at this early stage of the innovation process is important because, ultimately, people don’t buy technology – they buy what technology does for them. Technology can enable the supply of products and services, but design balances that supply with demand i.e. the needs and desires of customers.

Excellent, early stage design interventions improve innovation outcomes and business performance. Developments will have a lower risk of failure and are likely to generate greater revenue, higher profit margins and increased market share and exports compared to projects that don’t include early-stage design. Businesses that embrace a design-led culture are likely to be more efficient innovators, be more productive, have stronger brand equity and demonstrate greater resilience.

If you would like to find out more about Design Foundations, please call +44(0)1291 442181, text +44(0)7935 448266,  email or tweet @iterate_design.