Funding competition Audience of the future: design foundations

UK businesses can apply for a share of £1 million for early-stage, human-centred design projects that will determine future R&D activity in immersive experiences. This is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £1 million to fund early-stage, human-centred design projects through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). These will seek to understand customer needs and create new or better ideas for:

  • immersive audience experiences across the creative industries
  • products or services used to create, deliver and experience immersive content across the creative industries

Projects must use established human-centred design principles (such as the Design Council’s ‘double diamond’ process).

Immersive experiences blur the line between the physical and simulated world. They use virtual, mixed, and augmented reality technologies, haptics and other sensory interfaces coupled with data.

This competition is for early-stage projects that use customer research to generate ideas that meet customer needs. Fast, low-cost prototyping and user testing of those ideas is also within scope. Projects should deliver well-defined, user-validated ideas ready for further technical research and development (R&D).

This is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Audience of the Future programme. Successful applicants will have an opportunity to apply for later stage R&D funding from this programme in 2019.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total costs should be between £20,000 and £60,000. We expect projects to be able to start from 1 October 2018. They must last between 2 and 6 months and end by 31 March 2019.

Who can apply

To be eligible to lead a project you must:

  • be a UK-registered business
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results in or from the UK

You can work alone or in collaboration with others (businesses, research base or third sector). Only SMEs can work alone on projects.

Collaborations must include at least one SME. Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Any one business may lead on one application and partner in a further 2 applications. If a business is not leading on an application it can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

Collaborative project partners can include:

  • businesses
  • universities
  • non-profit research and technology organisations (RTOs) including catapults
  • independent research organisations (IROs)
  • cultural institutions

Non-business partners cannot lead on an application but can collaborate on any number of applications.

All the research organisations on your project combined cannot claim more than 30% of total eligible project costs. This is in any capacity, whether they are contributing as collaborators or subcontractors. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members
  • communicate our decision to you in writing


If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from a previous proposal, submitted by you into this or any previous competition, it will be classed as a resubmission.

If your application is unsuccessful, you may reapply with the same proposal once more, taking into account the feedback received from the assessors. You can reapply into another round of this competition (if applicable) or another competition. In other words, you can make a maximum of 2 applications in total with any proposal.


There is up to £1 million grant funding available for early-stage design projects in this competition.

Funding is available for projects with total costs between £20,000 and £60,000. This total cost is the combination of the requested grant value and the applicant’s contribution.

Find out more about eligible project costs.

Early-stage design projects are classed as feasibility studies, for which you could be funded:

  • up to 70% of your total project costs if you are a small or micro business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

If your project’s total costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, contact us at least 10 days before the competition closes.

Your proposal

Your project must include activities or work packages that:

  • discover audience perceptions, motivations and behaviour
  • define the problem statement and pinpoint the characteristics necessary to make any solution desirable and fit for purpose
  • develop a broad range of ideas for new products, services or experiences using immersive technologies, or that support the creation and delivery of immersive content
  • deliver clearly communicated ideas that have been validated through fast, low-cost prototyping and user-testing and are ready for further technical research and development (R&D)

The 9 sectors in the UK creative industries are:

  1. advertising and marketing
  2. architecture
  3. crafts
  4. design: product, graphic and fashion
  5. film, TV, video, radio and photography
  6. computer games and services
  7. publishing
  8. museums, galleries and libraries
  9. music, performing and visual arts

Specific themes

You can explore innovation opportunities in one or more of the following areas:

  1. The nature of immersive experiences. How can the state of the art be advanced with immersive audience experiences that are desirable and fit for purpose?
  2. Creating and distributing immersive content. How can we make the production of high quality content cheaper, faster and more accessible?
  3. Delivering immersive content through hardware. Improving the physical devices through which audiences will experience immersive content, such as eye-wear, controllers or haptic feedback devices.
  4. Delivering immersive content through software. Designing new digital platforms and services through which audiences will access immersive content.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • focus on solutions in areas other than the creative industries
  • are late-stage design development, that is, the progression of an existing, well-defined idea towards a final specification
  • are primarily technical in nature and not directly concerned with understanding human experiences

21 May 2018
London briefing event.
21 May 2018
Online briefing event. Watch the recording.
21 May 2018
Competition opens
4 July 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
17 August 2018 3:01pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite:

  • colleagues to contribute to the application
  • other organisations to collaborate in the project if your application is successful

Collaborating organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Application details
  2. Application questions
  3. Finances

1. Application details

Explain your project. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and length. List any organisations you have named as collaborators.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why.

2. Application questions

In this section, answers to these questions are scored by the assessors. Following assessment, you will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1: Project motivation and objectives

What problem, challenge or opportunity do you plan to explore through this project, and why is human-centred design the most appropriate methodology?

What high-level objectives do you expect to achieve through this project?

You should describe or explain:

  • the context and motivation for the project
  • the key aims and objectives of the project
  • who will benefit directly from the project outcomes, and how
  • any relevant wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which you are aware of or wish to explore further through this project. Our Horizons tool can help with this.

Question 2: Project activities and outputs

How will you conduct the project to achieve the aims set out in question 1. You should outline a concise, step-by-step project plan, broken down into individual phases of work. For each phase of work, explain:

  • what will be done
  • who will do it
  • what the will outputs be
  • how those outputs will help towards fulfilling the overall project objectives

Reference any specific design processes or tools that you plan to use.

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages in size to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3: Team and resources

Who will carry out the work and how will you access appropriate design capability?

Give details of:

  • the roles, skills and relevant experience of the project team
  • the specific experience, expertise and capabilities of the team with regard to early-stage, human-centred design
  • any resources, equipment and facilities required for the project and how you will access them
  • of any important external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to execute the project successfully
  • any gaps in the team that will need to be filled

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages in size to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks
  • how these risks will be mitigated
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • the steps you will take to ensure that new learning and ideas resulting from the design project will gain support and have lasting impact within your business

Question 5: Additionality

Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.

Describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as faster to market, more partners and reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Question 6: Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation in your project to complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Immersive technologies, such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality, could be as revolutionary in the next 20 years as the web, mobile and digital TV have been in the last. They have the potential to transform the audience experience of visiting a museum, watching a play at the theatre or playing games on a screen. They could also develop new modes of production and distribution, and new revenue streams for the UK’s creative industries.
As well as creating novel visual, aural and kinaesthetic (tactile) experiences for the visitor, watcher and player, immersive technologies can also attract new audiences and enable new forms of creative expression and practice. New products and services will be created and existing sectors and business models reconfigured. This will be the result of unpredictable changes in user and consumer expectations and demand.
The UK has the right skills to exploit these new opportunities: world class creators of IP and content, world leading entertainment events, highly innovative production businesses, technology innovators and a strong research base in arts, design, digital and computing sciences.
Success is not inevitable. Investment is held back by uncertainty over which creative propositions will attract these audiences. The UK must develop the right creative practice through large scale experiments in content and experiences.

In order to address this, Audience of the Future (AotF) is a £33 million investment over 3 years in a programme of industry-led activities including a demonstrator programme, R&D programme and an Industrial Centre of Excellence.

Design Foundations, is part of the R&D programme, and is focused on understanding the future consumer, delivering vital insight into audience perceptions and behaviours. There will be further opportunities in 2019 to apply for later stage funding to further develop projects initiated within this competition.

For more information on the opportunities immersive technologies offer the creative industries, visit the AotF page on the Immerse UK website. You will also be able to connect to potential collaborators and read case studies.

If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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