New £25m fund to boost green design solutions - Museums Association

New £25m fund to boost green design solutions

Initiative launched as a partnership between AHRC and the Design Museum
Phosfarm, by Samuel Illife, is a seaweed farm and forms part of the Future Observatory programme on display at the Design Museum
Phosfarm, by Samuel Illife, is a seaweed farm and forms part of the Future Observatory programme on display at the Design Museum

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the Design Museum in London, have launched a £25m fund to bring researchers, universities and businesses together.

Future Observatory: Design the Green Transition programme will run over the next three years and is funded by AHRC. The programme will be delivered in partnership with the Design Museum and will ensure a sustainable and inclusive response to the climate crisis.

The investment will directly fund and benefit more than 100 higher education institutions and 75 industry and local authority partners across the nation. It is the largest publicly funded design research and innovation (R&I) programme in the UK.

There are four main strands of funding.

  • £4m devoted to the three-year Future Observatory programme at the Design Museum.
  • Four Green Transition Ecosystems will be awarded £16m over three years to boost design research in multi-sector businesses.
  • Up to 75 Design Exchange Partnerships will be awarded £3m over the three years to bring researchers into collaboration with non-academic partners, such as local councils and businesses, to address the climate crisis.
  • Up to 50 design accelerator projects will be set up around the UK with £2m.

These projects aim to demonstrate how design research and innovation at universities across all four nations is vital for local communities’ successful transition to net zero and a green economy. Their outputs will be developed with key local stakeholders to speed up implementation.


The Future Observatory programme is dedicated to finding new ways to shift our dependence on fossil fuels through innovative design. The design research it is supporting backs the British government's commitment to decarbonise the economy and reach net zero by 2050.

Future Observatory has had a successful pilot year at the Design Museum championing AHRC funded research, including 15 Design Exchange Partnerships, exhibitions, displays, symposia, roundtables, and the museum’s Design Researchers in Residence.

Justin McGuirk, the director of Future Observatory and chief curator at the Design Museum, said: “As a museum whose primary purpose is to reflect the material and technological developments of our time, the Design Museum is ideally placed to champion design’s crucial role in the green transition.

"Indeed, Future Observatory redefines what a museum can be: a place not solely focused on the past or the present but one that can help shape the future. We are delighted to be partnering with the AHRC on this mission to support the UK in achieving its climate goals.”

As part of the programme, the display of Design Researchers in Residence runs at the Design Museum until 22 September.

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