Future Observatory is a national programme for design research supporting the UK’s response to the climate crisis.
Launched in November 2021, the three-year programme is coordinated by the Design Museum in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
As a cultural institution, the Design Museum is ideally placed to bring cutting-edge design research to broad audiences, making it accessible and engaging and enabling it to have a greater impact. Indeed, Future Observatory redefines what a museum can be: a place not solely focused on the past or the present but one that can help shape the future.
Acting as both a coordinating hub for a nationwide programme, as well as a research department within the museum, Future Observatory curates exhibitions, programmes events and funds and publishes new research, all with the aim of championing new design thinking on environmental issues. Future Observatory also runs Design Researchers in Residence, the Design Museum's flagship programme for emerging design thinkers and practitioners.
Design the Green Transition
Following a hugely successful pilot year of Future Observatory, AHRC and the Design Museum launched a multi-million-pound fund bringing UK design researchers, universities and businesses together to catalyse the transition to net zero and a green economy.
The Future Observatory: Design the Green Transition programme is funded by AHRC and will be delivered in partnership with the Design Museum. It will benefit over 100 higher education institutions and 75 industry and local authority partners across the nation. It is the largest publicly funded design research and innovation (R&I) programme in the UK.
There are four main strands of Future Observatory: Design the Green Transition:
· Three-year Future Observatory programme at the Design Museum
· 4x Green Transition Ecosystems
· 75x Design Exchange Partnerships
· 50x Design Accelerators
Since its founding in 1989, the Design Museum has had an ongoing commitment to new forms of research and innovation across design, architecture, and technology.
In November 2018, the Future Observatory project began with a reception hosted at the Houses of Parliament. Through the programme, the Design Museum has worked with over 80 senior figures across design, industry and government.
At the end of 2019, the Design Museum partnered with AHRC to undertake a nationwide programme of research to inform and develop a full proposal for Future Observatory. This research included scoping into contemporary design-research landscape across the UK, in addition to developing new organisational models and national collaborations to be utilised by the programme. The results of this research were published in 2020.
Future Observatory was launched in November 2021, in conjunction with the museum's Waste Age - What Can Design Do? exhibition and to coincide with COP26 in Glasgow, UK. The pilot year focused on the net zero agenda and related environmental issues; championed AHRC funded research, including 15 Design Exchange Partnerships; and featured the Questions of Scale symposium at the Design Museum, a net zero housing roundtable in partnership with the Design Council and the museum’s Design Researchers in Residence 21/22 display, Restore.
Camilla Buchanan – Co-head of Policy Lab
Edward Harcourt – Fellow of Keble College, Oxford and former Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation at AHRC
Hanif Kara – Design Director, AKT II and Professor in Practice of Architectural Technology at Harvard GSD
Suhair Khan – Creative Strategist
Adrian Lahoud – Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art
The Design Researchers in Residence programme supports emerging design thinkers at the start of their careers to spend a year developing a new research project in response to a theme.
Although emerging from the Design Museum and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Future Observatory is a developing network of individuals, organisations and initiatives. We are grateful to all those who continue to support this initiative. A full list of those who have advised, collaborated or supported the programme to date can be shared upon request.