Design Innovation

The research agenda of the Institute for Design Innovation builds on the idea that design contributes to and enables innovation in multiple ways and on various levels.

The Institute is currently engaged in and developing further four research areas in the wider design innovation arena, with a focus on the use and application of design knowledge, skills and approaches into varied contexts.

Please see the Institute’s PhD Opportunities below for more detailed descriptions of current topics and open posts.


Value creation is a central concern in design innovation. This area of research is focused on value creation perspectives in and through the application of design into multiple contexts involving users, organizations, ecosystems and society at large. The area examines managing user and customer involvement in new product, service and business development, co-creating value in the (new) creative and culture industries, and applying design(ers) thinking into new and disruptive business models.


A focal issue in design outcomes, processes and capabilities is linked to the creation of meaning. This research area examines design–driven innovation of meaning, with a focus on the role and impact of design and designers as cultural intermediaries, examining the creation of meaning, culture and materiality-related perspectives in multiple contexts and environments. The relationship between design and culture is also a focal area of interest, together with new modes and future perspectives of design driven innovation.


Designing public policies and services is a central challenge in our societies today. This research area links the study of the development of innovative policies to the research on delivery of relevant and coherent services that help to deliver innovation that matters. The area furthermore examines the role of design and designers in sustainable product service systems, social enterprise and services, and the circular economy.


How we design, what we design, and who designs are some of the key questions for design practice today. This area of research investigates teams and groups in creativity and design driven contexts, through exploring collaborative, interdisciplinary and multicultural practices and approaches. The area also investigates transformational leadership, activism and critical thinking in design management and practice today and in the future.


As the interaction between users, organizations and ecosystems becomes more complex everyday, exploring new design contexts becomes increasingly important.  This research area aims to give space to and explore the grey areas of design research that have received scant attention to date but represent potentially valuable avenues of investigation. This could include exploratory or emerging themes linked to phenomena such as urbanization and smart cities, regeneration issues, digitalization and similar. This area is open to exploratory topics, imaginative contexts and novel methodologies.

 The Institute for Design Innovation is involved in numerous on-going research projects, including the following research areas:

  • Design of new value-based partnership models with development impact and transformation of current development paradigm shift into opportunities among the development organisations
  • Knowledge processing in teams and information processing among members that lead to enhanced performance
  • Living Labs co-created by communities, as strategies to explore, build and create future circular cities that are meaningful for city inhabitants
  • Methodologies for engaging young people in the design of preventative mental healthcare services, with a particular emphasis on technology-enabled solutions, new business models and services as part of the Smart City programme
  • Engaging communities in sustainable rural development through developing community development projects with a focus on social entrepreneurship, social innovation and incubation activities that can improve livelihoods of rural villages in Europe

Design Innovation MRes

Students who choose to study an MRes in Design Innovation will be able to build on their research skills with the choice to focus on areas such as Identity, Culture and Communication, and Design Thinking, which builds on the idea that design supports and encourages innovation in multiple ways.

Find out more about this programme