Future Directions for Design Research: Initial Scoping Study Released

You may remember back in Spring this year the Design Council and AHRC jointly invited the design research community to comment on barriers and opportunities to funding and to highlight gaps in design research. This consultation has now concluded and an initial scoping study [PDF] has been produced outlining the key findings and suggesting possible future areas for research funding:

Design Council – Measuring the Value and Role of Design

The key messages in the report are:

  • An ‘open call’ approach to funding design research is generally favoured, ensuring that design remains at the centre of any multidisciplinary approach
  • Thematically, healthcare and service design were both seen as strong options for future calls, and indeed Design Council are currently leading a study on service design to conclude in November, for which there may be small amounts of funding available – contact Ruth Flood to find out more.
  • A range of funding mechanisms were suggested, allowing for both large and small grants, with a general trend towards ‘sand-pit’ collaborative development approaches
  • Working with business and policymakers is seen as important, but this cannot be the sole approach to research
  • Large-scale collaborative grants were seen to be the right approach for multidisciplinary research, but the importance of access to small grants was also emphasised
  • There was strong endorsement of AHRC and Design Council working closely together
  • Further research is needed to evidence the value of design to the economy and, in particular, innovation: designers, economists and business practitioners should collaborate on this
  • There are opportunities to put design at the centre of sustainability focused projects in science and business
  • Further academic research should be conducted to demonstrate the impact that improved environmental/urban design can have on human outcomes in health or broader well-being

The immediate next step is to carry out work on service design and anyone interested in encouraged to contact Ruth Flood (Ruth.Flood@madano.com) from Madano partnership – the consultancy which carried out the initial study.


Design for Wellbeing: Collaboration Space

Following the recently released EPSRC/AHRC/ESRC Design for Wellbeing call, Research and Business Services have organised a collaboration meeting for all interested parties to discuss the call and how they might contribute to any proposals which go forward.

It will take place on Friday 15th June, 10 am – 12 midday in City Campus East building 1, room 007. It is open to researchers and research support staff from all Schools. If you have not already done so, please contact me (david.g.young@northumbria.ac.uk) if you would like to attend as space is limited.

There will be a short outline summary of the call but most of the meeting will be devoted to participant discussion. This will be a chance to share ideas and potential project partners relevant to the Design for Wellbeing call to ensure as many people as possible are aware of activity going on around the University and to avoid any duplication of effort. It may lead to joint proposals and collaborations where these build on shared strengths and complementary expertise/partners.

If you’re interested in taking part, but can’t make it please consider sending me a short summary of your relevant experience and what you feel you could bring to this call (research expertise or partners) before the 15th June. I’ll make sure this feeds into the discussion. We’ll also take notes and make sure that these are circulated following the event so everyone is aware of areas of activity and future actions.


Design for wellbeing: ageing and mobility in the built environment – call released!

The EPSRC has released the Design for Wellbeing call trailed last week by the ESRC. AHRC are also involved in this cross-council call which is part of the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing strand. You can read the full call for proposals on the EPSRC website:

Design for wellbeing: ageing and mobility in the built environment [PDF]

Key points:

  • The funders seek to create a “step change” in interdisciplinary engineering, social science and design research for wellbeing in the built environment, which refers to the whole system of the human-made outdoor and indoor environment.
  • The call focuses on facilitation of mobility, physical activity and physical connectivity and encourages projects which consider ageing as a lifelong process.
  • Nursing, care and residential homes are within the scope of the call. Research focusing solely on domestic housing is excluded.
  • Design is specifically targeted as the AHRC element of the call.
  • User engagement is a key part of this call: “There is a need to engage practitioners and older people throughout the research process to ensure maximum potential for uptake of research outputs”.
  • Issues around sustainability and resilience should be addressed, and how future climate change will affect the design outputs.
  • Up to £7M is available for a maximum of 5 large scale multi-disciplinary projects of up to 3 years. It’s therefore likely that successful projects will be in the £1M-£2M range. It’s also likely that they will involve partners from other HEIs as well as user groups.
  • Of the £7M, £4M has been committed by EPSRC, £2M by ESRC, and £1M by AHRC. Consortia are expected to broadly reflect the relative contributions of the funders.
  • Expressions of interest are due at 12:00 on 10th September 2012. These are not submitted via Je-S, but via the form embedded in the EPSRC website, or by completing the EoI form and emailing to LLHWDesignforWellbeing@epsrc.ac.uk.
  • There will be a very quick turnaround on the EoI stage – applicants will be notified by 26th September. Those who are invited to prepare full proposals will need to submit via Je-S by 16:00 on 28th November 2012.

Northumbria staff should contact us at an early stage if they are interested in getting involved in a bid to this call.


Forthcoming call: Design for wellbeing: ageing and mobility in the built environment

ESRC has highlighted a forthcoming joint call with EPSRC and AHRC for evidence-led research into ageing and mobility in the built environment. This will be part of the cross-Council research programme, Lifelong Health and Well-being.

Up to £7M will be available for applications from interdisciplinary consortia. Further details are currently unavailable, but the call is scheduled to be announced in mid-May.

Please contact us if you are a Northumbria member of staff interested in this call.

** UPDATE  16/05/2012** The call has now been released.


Northumbria comes to CHI 2012

Northumbria University is involved in 26 contributions to the prestigious CHI 2012 conference in Austin, Texas. You can read about them all here:

CHI/Northumbria: It’s the Experience

Experts from the Schools of Life Sciences, Design and Built and Natural Environment are taking part in the conference this year, with contributions ranging from digital cheque books for eighty somethings, interventions to change energy usage to teenage cool, killer apps and building design.

CHI is the premier international conference on human-computer interaction, taking place this year between 5th and 10th May. This year’s conference is expected to draw in over 2,500 professionals from over 400 countries.


ARTEMIS 2012 Call: Embedded Systems

The ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking, a European public-private partnership for research funding in embedded systems, has just released its 2012 call for funding. The deadline for full proposals is 6th September 2012.

You can read a summary of the call on the ARTEMIS 2012 call page. Full details can be found on the EU Participant Portal call page – you should read Work Programme Part A if you’re interested in the sub-programmes (areas of research around real-world applications of embedded systems) and Part B if you’re interested in the innovation pilot projects (technology development for user and business needs in the area of embedded systems).

Areas of Interest

The sub-programmes are (see Work Programme Part A for a full explanation of what is expected in each area):

Methods and processes for safety-relevant embedded systems
Embedded Systems for Healthcare and Wellbeing
Embedded systems in Smart environments
Embedded Systems for manufacturing and process automation
Computing platforms for embedded systems
Embedded Systems for Security and Critical Infrastructures Protection
Embedded Systems supporting sustainable urban life
Human-centred design of embedded systems

The innovation pilot programme priorities are (see Work Programme Part B for a full explanation):

Critical Systems Engineering Factories
Innovative Integrated Care Cycles
Seamless communication and interoperability – Smart environments: the Neural System for society
Production and Energy Systems Automation
Computing platforms for embedded systems
“Intelligent-Built” environment and urban infrastructure for sustainable and “friendly” cities

Eligibility Issues

To apply you’ll need at least three organisations from three participating member states (see the eligibility criteria for more on this). For the UK, universities can be involved but you’ll also need a UK-based industrial partner, because the UK element of the call is coordinated by the Technology Strategy Board.

In terms of costs, universities can claim up to 80% FEC, but note that the total consortium funding can only be up to 50% of total project costs – so industrial partners and SMEs would have to claim proportionately less to balance the budget. In addition, UK academics can only apply if they have previously held an EPSRC grant and the ARTEMIS application is a continuation of this research.

Please get in touch for support and advice if you’re interested in developing a project for this call.

What’s an embedded system?

Embedded systems are technologies which are part of everyday artefacts and systems: “from children’s toys and mobile phones to space probes and from transportation vehicles to healthcare systems.” Embedded systems play a key role in the “internet of things” which describes the potential virtual network of connections between real-life objects using, for example, radio frequency ID tags.

One frequently cited example of the benefits of embedded systems within an internet of things is the internet-enabled fridge. If a refrigerator was able to monitor its contents, then it could know when you are running short on milk and notify you to pick some up on your way home – or even automatically place an order with your local supermarket and have it delivered. It’s not just fridges and food, though, embedded systems could potentially revolutionise our way of life, reducing waste and improving a wide range of systems that humans interact with on a daily basis.


Calling All Design Researchers: AHRC and Design Council Scope Future Directions

The AHRC and Design Council have jointly launched a scoping study to inform future funding and directions for design research in the UK:

Measuring the value and role of design

The consultation has so far produced a short report [PDF] on the current scope of design research, which has been categorised into three main areas:

  1. Design for economic good
  2. Design for social good (focused around health and well being issues)
  3. Design for sustainability

The report includes a series of questions, highlighted in red, which identify potential gaps or raise issues which may require further research and response from the design research community.

To give the community an opportunity to respond to these issues, and to shape the wider discussion about design research, an online consultation exercise is currently available to complete on the Design Council website until 18th April 2012. This is an excellent chance to get involved in the debate at an early stage and offers the opportunity to provide fairly specific recommendations on both focus and mechanisms for future funding.


Ambient Assisted Living: ICT to enhance quality of life for older people

Ambient Assisted Living Europe (AAL) has recently announced its fifth call for proposals with a closing date of 31st May 2012:

AAL Call 5

This time they’re looking for innovative ICT solutions which enable or sustain older adults to continue managing their daily activities in the home. This includes ordinary activities which most of us take for granted, such as getting dressed, preparing hot meals and doing the shopping. When you need a fast transaction online shopping services. Visit https://bestviva.net/ for more details.

The call for proposal text contains some sobering statistics: some 19 million people are involved in informal care for older people across Europe and 80% of all care in Europe is given by unpaid family members. If these trends  continue there will simply not be enough people in future to provide the care required.

In this context, the need to develop innovative technology-based solutions to enable older people to self-manage their life at home is urgent. The projects funded by this call should also support informal carers.

This is an industry-focused call and should have significant SME and business involvement (50% or more), but universities are eligible to apply as part of a consortium. The consortium must include at least 3 partners from 3 eligible countries and the project can last between 1-3 years. Time-to-market for the technology after the project is expected to be between 2 and 3 years.

UK involvement is coordinated by the Technology Strategy Board and they will be contributing €1.2M to the overall AAL budget. This will be used to fund industry involvement at up to 50% funding. EPSRC are contributing an additional €1.2M to fund EPSRC-eligible HEIs at a standard 80% FEC.

The guidance requires that the majority of work carried out by universities on this project should fall within the remit of the Engineering Portfolio at EPSRC, which includes Engineering Design.

Any Northumbria University staff interested in this call who wish to discuss a proposal further should get in touch with Research and Business Services.