GTEs are large scale projects that focus on translating the best design-led research into real-world benefits. Capitalising on clusters of design excellence, GTEs will address distinct challenges posed by the climate crisis, including but not limited to realising net zero goals.
The overarching aims of GTEs are to:
- empower the UK design research base to respond to regionally or sectorally significant green transition challenges in agile and collaborative ways
- embed circularity and sustainability across product, service, strategy and policy design in relation to the identified challenges
- contribute to increasing design gross value added in the nations and regions of the UK which have seen stagnation or decline
- realise measurable, green transition-supportive behaviour change across sectors and publics
- catalyse and foster opportunities for the socially, culturally and environmentally-acceptable commercialisation of design research-led interventions
- enable and support a greater diversity of voices and perspectives in the design of green-transition supportive-interventions, including users and publics
- create opportunities to build capacity and capability in design research for green transition challenges
Each GTE will identify the green transition challenges it is uniquely able to address and develop a programme of research and innovation activity tailored to addressing them through high-quality, multidisciplinary and intersectoral design research.
Such challenges might include (but are not limited to):
- developing low or zero carbon or non-extractive materials, products and services
- development of new circular design processes
- design that fosters positive behaviour change in support of green transition goals, including strategy and policy
- sector focused solutions, for example low or zero carbon screen (meaning, film and television) production
- region-focused solutions, for example transport systems and infrastructure supporting rural communities
- designing for diversity
- safeguarding the future of the design skills pipeline
The challenge you are seeking to address should require and promote the sustainable integration and leadership of arts and humanities design research in multidisciplinary fields of study related to net zero and the green transition.
GTEs may support:
- design research and innovation that prototypes and explores products, services and systems with users
- creation of multidisciplinary design research capabilities that can respond to needs and challenges arising from the net zero agenda, for example:
- exploration of circular, cyclical, or regenerative business models
- third sector and community organisation resilience
- skills transition support
- policymaking strategies within the context of developing a green and regenerative economy
- experimental labs to explore new products, services, and systems
- support for access to finance and routes to market for the commercialisation of sustainable, net zero or zero carbon products and services
- training and development opportunities through placements, secondments and staff exchanges, as well as continuing professional development, entrepreneurial or skills programmes
- activity to facilitate public participation in the research process
- co-working, shared networking space and facilities
GTEs must demonstrate the potential for their activities to deliver significant and measurable environmental, cultural, social and commercial benefit in relation to their chosen challenges. As part of our wider Future Observatory: Design the Green Transition programme, GTEs will benefit from the opportunity for accelerated impact and reach of their work through the Future Observatory hub.
All GTEs are expected to include a ringfenced budget of at least 10% of the AHRC contribution for enabling agile responses to new opportunities and accommodate fail-fast approaches, for example relating to changes in markets or technologies. Applicants must provide a clear and evidenced justification for the level of the ringfence, including a summary of the types of activities that the funding will be used for. For further information see ‘How to apply’.
Expectation of GTEs
- have a clear shared vision and strategy for delivering environmental, social and economic impact to an emerging design innovation ecosystem by addressing an identified challenge or challenges and with reference to the opportunities and threats arising from the net zero agenda set out in the scoping document
- be designed an ambitious and innovative collaborative research and innovation programme focused on delivering solutions to the challenges identified by the GTE, which can evolve during the initial year of the GTE
- have a strong and sustainable model of collaboration and the infrastructural capability to deliver the collaborative design research and innovation programme
- have a clearly delineated engagement strategy which aligns with Future Observatory’s strategy and vision
- have a robust management and governance structure with senior research organisation involvement (for example, PVC Research and Enterprise) and equivalent roles for senior non-academic partners, as well as representation from the relevant partner organisations and external stakeholders
- have an innovative, appropriate and relevant plan for public engagement with research, including clearly defined audiences and methods, that enables and support a greater diversity of voices and perspectives in the design of green-transition supportive-interventions
- have the best combination of multidisciplinary design research expertise required to address the needs of the specific challenge, with a leading contribution from the arts and humanities
- have a realistic and deliverable plan to leverage additional funding, including from industry and other sources
- demonstrate plans for:
- monitoring and evaluating the performance of the partnership
- building partnerships to support access to finance and routes to market for the collaborative research and innovation projects
- developing relevant links, beyond the GTE members, to other organisations and clusters of activity both in the UK and internationally that are relevant to the GTE’s work
GTEs will need to demonstrate a strong management and operational structures to deliver a programme of this scale. In building your team, you are encouraged to consider the range of capabilities you will need to deliver the GTE.
This could include:
- leadership of the GTE (director role and co-directors if appropriate)
- programme management and administration
- communications and engagement (including with AHRC, the Future Observatory director and team, and the wider landscape of stakeholders)
- public engagement
- environmental impact assessment (of both research and innovation activity itself and its outputs and outcomes)
- commercialisation or business development
You may draw upon existing resources, either within a research organisation or partner organisation in building your teams. A maximum of 10% of the total award from AHRC can be used to cover the costs of management and operational staff.
All GTEs must ensure they have a robust governance structure in place to which all partners show a commitment. The governance mechanisms (for example steering groups, advisory boards) should be appropriate to support the successful delivery of the project, both strategically and operationally, without being overly burdensome.
GTEs will be required to commit to providing AHRC with regular updates and reporting, with key performance indicators and metrics to be agreed post-award. This information will be used by AHRC in reporting to UK Research and Innovation, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and other stakeholders on progress against the actions set out in our strategic delivery plan.
The GTEs will report to the Future Observatory: Design the Green Transition research steering group which will have oversight of the deliverables of the programme.
For more information and to apply to be on the research steering group.
Up to £4.625 million is available for the delivery of each GTE. All GTEs will be required to include a ringfenced budget of £625,000 for supporting activities delivered by the engagement hub.
All GTEs will be expected to realise leveraged co-investment from third parties (research organisation or partners).
While there is no lower limit set on the level of co-investment expected at the outset of the project, you must have secured some material commitment (for example cash or in-kind contributions) and this should be outlined in the proposal with an accompanying letter of support from the contributing party.
In addition, all GTEs must commit to increasing the level of co-investment committed over the course of the project and beyond as follows (relative to total funding amount):
- 2023 to 2025: 10%
- 2025 to 2026: 20%
- 2026 to 2027: 40%
- 2027 to 2028: 60%
- 2028 to 2029: 80%
- for contributions from any source to be considered co-investment, they must be new funding and specific to realising the aims of the GTE
- only research organisation contributions over and above the usual 20% full economic cost contribution will be considered co-investment
- the extent of realised co-investment over the course of the project will contribute to decision-making in relation to continuation funding from 2025 to 2026 onwards
The full economic cost of your project can be up to £4.625 million. Included in each GTE award is £625,000 of ring-fenced Future Observatory funding. You do not need to allocate the ring-fenced amount in your application form.
Salary costs for the principal investigator and co-investigator for the time spent working on the project, and whose time can be supported by a full audit trail during the life of the project, are eligible.
For more information about non-academic co-investigator costs, read the inclusion of non-academic partners as co-investigators guidance (PDF, 96KB).
Funding is available for up to 19 months. Projects must start between 18 September 2023 and 1 October 2023.