£5.8 million Centre of Excellence in Design, Engineering, Technology and Business to be created

Design students

The Royal College of Art (RCA) and Imperial College London announce today a major strategic partnership with the creation of a world-class £5.8 million multidisciplinary centre called Design-London at RCA-Imperial.


The Royal College of Art (RCA) and Imperial College London announce today a major strategic partnership with the creation of a world-class £5.8 million multidisciplinary centre called Design-London at RCA-Imperial.

Its purpose will be to bring together the disciplines of design, engineering, technology and business to address the challenges of future innovation. This initiative is being developed as part of the core strategic aims of both institutions and in response to the recommendations for Higher Education described in the Cox Review of Creativity in Business (November 2005), carried out by Sir George Cox, Chairman of the Design Council, and commissioned by Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Design-London at RCA-Imperial will create an 'innovation triangle' between design (represented by the Royal College of Art), engineering and technology (represented by Imperial College Faculty of Engineering) and the business of innovation (represented by Imperial's Tanaka Business School).

Within this 'innovation triangle', teaching will promote knowledge interchange between MA, MEng and MBA students from the RCA and Imperial; research will explore how design can be more effectively integrated with business and technology to create world-beating products and services; entrepreneurial graduates from RCA and Imperial will be given the opportunity to develop new ideas in the 'Incubator', a dynamic multi-disciplinary environment for business development which will support unique or unexpected collaborations between different disciplines, organisations and places; and business partners of RCA and Imperial will be able to build innovation capacity via simulation exercises, digital tools and facilitation in the 'Simulator'.

The total project cost of Design-London is £5.8 million, of which £3.8 million (65 per cent of the total) has been provided as seed funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) over three years (2007-2010).

In addition, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) has agreed £900,000 spread over a three-year period to fund the Incubator element of the project.

The remainder of the funding is being sourced from within the Royal College of Art and Imperial College. It is a core objective of the project to move to self-sustaining mode at the end of the three years. The LDA has endorsed the initiative and is working with other partners in London, including the Design Council to ensure the centre is incorporated into a wider strategy which capitalises on design strengths to drive innovation across London businesses.

HEFCE Chief Executive Professor David Eastwood said:

"This is an exciting partnership in that Design-London addresses many of HEFCE's strategic priorities, including the delivery of high-quality learning experiences to meet the needs of the economy and society and the engagement between HEIs and businesses. It also promises to contribute to UK economic success amid intensified global competition."

The Centre builds on a strong track record of very successful collaboration between near neighbours RCA and Imperial which dates back more than 25 years to the creation of a joint Masters course in Industrial Design Engineering. This programme will sit at the heart of Design-London.

It is anticipated that the project will also network with other existing teaching programmes and research centres within the two institutions, making new connections and building on previous investment in design, engineering and business expertise to achieve a new level of multidisciplinary engagement. A robust system of management and governance will be put in place. Design-London's Advisory Board will be chaired by Sir James Dyson.

Sir Christopher Frayling, Rector of the Royal College of Art, said:

"This is a really important stage of development for the RCA.  It takes our link in innovation and design to a new plateau, a new prominence, and represents the only big partnership in the UK between the art and design sector and a leading Russell Group university.  Building on the triangle of design, technology and business at this high level is good for us and in time will be good, no doubt, for the British economy."

Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College London, said:

"Innovation is an important part of what we do at Imperial and we are constantly exploring new ways of turning exciting ideas into reality, encouraged greatly by the presence of an integrated business school. Our previous collaborations with the RCA have sparked some imaginative problem-solving, so I'm delighted that this partnership provides further opportunities for us all to work together to tackle design challenges in a creative and dynamic multidisciplinary environment."


For further information, please contact Eoin Bedford, Press and PR Manager, Tanaka Business School on 020 7594 9154 or e.bedford@imperial.ac.uk

Editors Notes:

1) The Cox Review  - commissioned and endorsed by The Treasury -recommends that Higher Education should play a distinctive role in improving the performance of British busines innovation through 'centres of excellence' offering 'multidisciplinary programmes for research and postgraduate teaching' combining design, business, engineering and technology. Design-London at RCA-Imperial has been conceived within this spirit.

2) The initiative is aligned to key criteria and priorities of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Strategic Development Fund in that it represents a substantial collaborative arrangement between the RCA and Imperial College; represents a strategic development that builds on the institutional strengths of the two partners; has the potential to provide benefits for the wider HE sector; and addresses the wider strategic priorities of HEFCE. 

3) NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts.  With endowed funds of over £300 million, its mission is to transform the UK's capacity for innovation.   It does this in three main ways: by working to build a more pervasive culture of innovation in this country; by providing innovators with access to early stage capital; and by driving forward research into innovation, with a view to influencing policy.  


4) The Design Council is the UK's national strategic body for design. It aims to strengthen and support the economy and society by demonstrating and promoting the vital role of design in making businesses more competitive and public services more effective.


5) The London Development Agency (LDA) works to improve the quality of life for all Londoners and drive sustainable economic growth.


6) The Royal College of Art is the world's only wholly postgraduate university of art and design, specialising in teaching and research and offering the degrees of MA, MPhil and PhD across the disciplines of fine art, applied art, design, communications and humanities. There are over 900 masters and doctoral students and more than a hundred professionals interacting with them - including scholars, leading art and design practitioners, along with specialists, advisors and distinguished visitors.


7) Rated as the world's ninth best university in the 2006 Times Higher Education Supplement University Rankings, Imperial College London is a science-based institutio n with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 11,500 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

With 62 Fellows of the Royal Society among our current academic staff and distinguished past members of the College including 14 Nobel Laureates and two Fields Medallists, Imperial's contribution to society has been immense. Inventions and innovations include the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of our research for the benefit of all continues today with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to tackle climate change and mathematical modelling to predict and control the spread of infectious diseases.

The College's 100 years of living science will be celebrated throughout 2007 with a range of events to mark the Centenary of the signing of Imperial's founding charter on 8 July 1907.


8) Imperial College's Faculty of Engineering is one of the largest in the UK with 1,000 staff and over 4,700 students. In the 2006 Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings for Engineering and IT Universities it was the top UK and European university and fourth in the World. 

9) Imperial College's Tanaka Business School is a world-class provider of business education and research, building on Imperial's strengths through focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship, finance and healthcare management. The School offers full-time and executive MBAs, Masters programmes in Finance, Risk Management, International Health management, Management and Actuarial Finance; and a Doctoral programme. The School's Innovation and Entrepreneurship faculty group is the leading research group of its kind in Europe, having received over £25m in funding from governmental and corporate sponsors.


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