Design Accelerators

Supporting engagement between universities and their local communities

Design Accelerators are small scale reactive projects that are designed to support engagement between design R&I projects and diverse private, public and third sector organisations, local communities, and the general public.

Design Accelerators aim to:  

- demonstrate how the design R&I at universities throughout the country is vital for their local communities’ successful transition to net zero and a green economy  

- speed up the implementation of outputs by developing them with key local stakeholders  

- increase the diversity of voices and actors consulted in and contributing to addressing the climate crisis  

Design Accelerators are to be offered as competitive awards to research organisations who hold AHRC Impact Acceleration Accounts. The projects last for up to seven months, between February and September 2023, and are funded up to £50,000 by AHRC.

Design Accelerators 2023

1. The Value of Design for Sustainable Housing

Patricia Tzortzopoulos
University of Huddersfield

The Value of Design for Sustainable Housing will engage communities involved in housing – new and refurbishments – to better use design for smart, sustainable housing, and generate value in Social Housing Upgrades in Kirklees and Yorkshire. Living Labs will help in co-designing what is achievable for a sustainable future.

2. Aqueous Futures

Serena Pollastri
Lancaster University

This project will demonstrate the value of alternative ways of understanding place through knowledge exchange activities between design researchers and local stakeholders, to support strategies for coastal climate adaptation. 

Aqueous Futures is an engagement project that brings together policy makers, non-academic environmental agencies and communities to demonstrate how embodied, experimental, design-led approaches to building knowledge about place can be adopted in processes of planning, implementing and monitoring interventions for climate adaptation in coastal areas.

3. Designs for the Biocene

Marcos Cruz
University College London

Designs for the Biocene aims to bring together a network of experts to establish a road map for our future human habitat. Workshops and community engagement will devise a design manifesto for bio-integration. Impact will be achieved through the adoption of novel low carbon biomaterials and the enhancement of wellbeing through green infrastructure.

4. Nudging Towards Net Zero

Johannes Lohse
University of Birmingham

We work with local stakeholders to improve the design of local mobility solutions. In three design workshops, we co-create behavioural change interventions with local policymakers and citizens and discuss barriers to using more sustainable mobility solutions.

5. Facilitating the Adoption of Domestic Retrofitting in Canterbury and East Kent

Sam McElhinney
University for the Creative Arts

This project connects Canterbury home owners with architects, retrofitting and construction professionals to encourage implementing energy efficiency and carbon reduction solutions in existing housing. Through workshops and resulting design guides, home owners will be able to better navigate the often complex range of retrofitting options, and help achieve local carbon neutral targets.

6. Unlocking Community Resources for Sustainable Living

Ljubomir Jankovic
University of Hertfordshire

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have worked with local councils to explore practical mitigations against climate change. Here, we aim to build on our successes and share our locally tailored findings with other councils to co-create interventions that can be used nationwide to assist the transition to net-zero communities.

7. Towards Solar Facades as Participatory Public Art

Eleonora Nicoletti
UWE Bristol

Towards Solar Facades as Participatory Public Art engages the public in envisioning energy-generating solar facades for the retrofit of buildings in the city of Bristol, which is characterised by a strong presence of street art, and engages the local community’s preferences for possible façade designs integrating photovoltaic installations.

8. Ephemeral Walls

Michael Ramage
Cambridge University

Flexibility within housing grows from the need to involve residents in the design of their spaces. We investigate “soft flexibility”, where dwellers customise their spaces organically. Our ephemeral walls, made with engineered timber and digital tools, are low-cost, modular and sustainable and can be placed anywhere within the apartment.

9. Game Changing

Kirsti Bohata
Swansea University

The unique power of games is the agency they provide to their audience. Co-designing games increases understanding of climate change, biodiversity and the actions needed to reach net zero. Working with game designers and local organisations, this project enables post-industrial and rural communities to gamify the green transition in their localities.