Design Innovation

PhD opportunities


The Institute for Design Innovation welcomes explorative research proposals with novel methodologies and creative approaches to the grey areas of design research.

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 four research areas in Design Innovation with a focus on the use and application of design knowledge, skills and approaches into varied contexts.

The Institute for Design Innovation regularly offers a range of PhD studentships. We invite well formulated proposals in the focal areas below and also welcome explorative proposals with novel methodologies and research approaches on topics which investigate the grey areas of design research that have received scant attention to date but represent potentially valuable avenues of investigation.

Who should apply?

The Institute for Design Innovation has an interest in the issues of design that have received scant attention to date, but have the potential to deliver outstanding outcomes for design. Some of the research areas include Design Value, Design Delivery, Design Exploration, Design Meaning and Design Practice.

Research areas

Through pursuing one of our postgraduate research programmes, research students will have the opportunity to work with top researchers and industry leaders, and gain first-hand experience of real-life problem solving. The aim is to create a vibrant, enthusiastic, and forward-thinking community, where world-leading academics and talented students work closely together to research world leading inventions.

Design Value

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.

Design Meaning

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.

Design Delivery

This research area examines the role of design and designers in sustainable product service systems, social enterprise and services, and the circular economy.

Design Practice

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.

Design Exploration

As the interaction between users, organisations and ecosystems becomes more complex every day, 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 urbanisation and smart cities, regeneration issues, digitalisation and similar. This area is open to exploratory topics, imaginative contexts and novel methodologies.

On-going research projects

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.

How to apply

Apply now All MPhil and PhD applications must be made online.

We strongly recommend contacting your preferred research supervisor(s) in advance of submitting an application to discuss your ideas. To see a full list of academic staff within the Institute for Design Innovation, please visit the Institute for Design Innovation staff page.

Please use our online application portal to submit your research proposal, and clearly outline the question you intend to address. You should also include an overview of your subject area and proposed research methods.

A researcher working on his laptop

PhD facilities and support

As a PhD student with us, you will have 24-hour access to our dedicated research hub, stunning library and fully-equipped kitchen facilities.

Find out more
Two people looking at a laptop screen in a study space

PhD fees and funding

Studying for a PhD is a significant but incredibly rewarding investment for your career and for your future. Visit our fees and funding pages to find out whether you are eligible for financial support towards your studies.
Find out more