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Report: Green Transition Ecosystems townhall

Launching our largest funding opportunity

Author: Leilah Hirson-Comley

On Tuesday 31 January, we were delighted to welcome a host of design researchers, business entrepreneurs and higher education institution representatives to the Green Transition Ecosystems (GTE) townhall at the Design Museum. The townhall was the latest in a series of national events on Green Transition Ecosystems, following introductions to the funding opportunity at universities in Belfast, Glasgow, and Swansea in November 2022. With the announcement of the open call on 10 January 2023, the townhall in London offered interested parties the opportunity to meet and ask questions of the directorate of Future Observatory and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and to network with other attendees.

To kickstart the event, Justin McGuirk, Director of Future Observatory and Chief Curator at the Design Museum, contextualised the GTE funding opportunity within the wider Future Observatory programme. Through outlining its various funding strands and its public programme, McGuirk highlighted Future Observatory’s twofold mission to support impactful research and facilitate public engagement. Allan Sudlow, Director of Partnerships and Engagement at AHRC, subsequently framed this within AHRC’s strategic delivery plan to drive change through innovation – identifying design research, design thinking, and design practice as key drivers within this process.

To address the specifics of the application process, McGuirk summarised the purpose of a GTE, the composition of its consortia, and the types of activity that could be funded. He was then joined by Sudlow, Cher Potter (Future Observatory Curatorial Director), and Katherine Mansfield (Senior Investment Manager at AHRC) for a lively Q&A session with the audience. During this, audience members asked for clarification on the presentation points and application requirements, with particular interest in the speed of the research period for the GTEs. McGuirk responded that the scale of the funding, the speed of its delivery, and the need for agility and contingency planning were all necessary in the urgent context of the climate crisis.

Concluding the event, Cher Potter presented the ecosystem-based research currently underway and funded by Future Observatory. The five Design Ecosystem Fellowship projects, which were selected via open call in May last year, have been mapping transformative design ecosystems across the UK. From the NHS to British forestry to sustainable development in Glasgow, the fellows highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of regional production systems that support waste reduction and circular and regenerative approaches. In the panel discussion that followed, the Fellows stressed the necessity of identifying key stakeholders and forging strategic partnerships, rather than investing in new technologies. After a dynamic discussion, we all headed off to enjoy some tea and cakes at a networking session.

The deadline to express intention to submit is 23 February 2023. For more information, click here.

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