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Design Foundations

Design Foundations is a variant of Innovate UK funding that invests in projects that are early-stage and human-centred.

It’s aimed at helping businesses engage with customers, users or wider stakeholders through human-centred research to identify high-value innovation opportunities and generate more innovative products, services and business models.

There has been several previous rounds of Design Foundations as a stand-alone and part of other programmes. Details of previous rounds of funding can be found at:

Design Foundations 2018 Round 1 – £1 million
Design Foundations 2018 Audience of the Future – £1 million
Design Foundations 2017 Round 2 – £1 million
Design Foundations 2017 Round 1 – £1 million

The KTN Design in Innovation team has been working with a wide range of companies across the UK that received funding through Design Foundations. Find out more about how design techniques helped them refine their ideas and create new opportunities to scale up and grow.


What is Human-Centred Design?

Human-centred design is critical to the success of the UK’s innovative business scene. Why commit spend to the development of technology without understanding of the needs, motivations, attitudes or frustrations of the people that will use it? With this in mind, Innovate UK has opened up the Design Foundations grant funding programme to find the next generation of exciting new products, services and business models.

Evidence shows that businesses that use early-stage design, generate increased revenue, market share and exports as well as having a faster and more cost-effective innovation process. It will give you, senior members in the organisation and investors greater confidence in your ideas, streamline the development of those ideas and reduce cost and the likelihood of failure.




What can Design can do for you?

If you are a business that thinks you could benefit from an understanding of market demand to identify or validate your innovation opportunities and de-risk the development of ideas, Design Foundations is for you.

The benefits could include:

  • Explore better ideas and identify the right opportunity.
  • Communicate ideas and bring clarity.
  • Get buy-in and act as a glue for collaboration.
  • Iteratively develop concepts and manage risk.
  • Rethink strategy and boost innovation capability.

On completing a Foundation project, your business is likely to be better positioned to address investors’ and customers’ needs for a particular new venture or proposition. This may be in relation to approaching private investors or refining a subsequent application to a specific Innovate UK, sector-related, competition.


View the Design Foundation testimonials: 

Using design to understand specific customer needs

Using design methods to understand cultural audiences

Using design to prioritise new business opportunities


Where can I find top quality design partners?

Any programme featuring Design Foundations may need high calibre designers to provide the relevant tools and approaches to collaborate with another business in assessing, exploring and moving them forward.

Speak to the KTN Design Team if you would like advice or introducing to a credible design partner. Please detail your project and request to ensure we can find you the right connection.

Related interests:
Latest News
Can early stage design really help companies scale up and grow?
The Design in Innovation team at KTN has been working with a wide range of companies across the UK. Last updated 27th June.

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