The Design Option

What is the Design Option?

The Technology Strategy Board is working to bring the design community and technology community closer together to help strengthen UK innovation. The purpose of the design option is to help companies think more about their use of design at the start of a project. We are offering free access to design mentors early in the process of project formulation, for example, before competition applicants submit their proposals. The design option is made available in competitions when it is felt that the early use of design can have a particularly positive impact on project outcomes.

The design option is currently available for the Stratified medicine: determining patient response competition

 What do we mean by design?

Design is a powerful tool when used effectively throughout an entire R&D project. It can lead to time and cost savings and to better outcomes, particularly when employed early in the project life cycle. Design can have a positive impact on a product’s desirability, usability and feasibility:

·         desirability – what attracts someone to want/use something

·         usability – how it is then used, and

·         feasibility – how these attributes are delivered?

The design option focuses on the user experience of a product, process or service.  Technical aspects of design, such as engineering design, molecular design, or the design of experiments, are not eligible.

 Role of the design mentor

The design option entitles organisations up to two days of free design mentoring. The role of the design mentor is to show how design can be used in the early stages of a project and to demonstrate the value of a holistic approach to design throughout a project and beyond. They will demonstrate how the early inclusion of design can result in savings in time and project costs, and result in more successful outcomes. The design information and examples given by the design mentors will often be quite generic. Recipients may wish, where appropriate and under suitable arrangements, to share information about project ideas with the design mentor to help facilitate the Mentor’s better understanding of their requirements. (See contractual arrangements.)

The role of the design mentor is only to highlight the value of the early use of design – they are not able to give advice or to promote their own services. Design mentors will be excluded from any ongoing involvement in those projects they have mentored under the design option scheme - should these projects subsequently be awarded competition funding. Successful companies wishing to work with designers during their projects will need to find other designers to work with­


Design option recipients will have the opportunity to make revisions and improvements to their original project plans before the application deadline for a competition. In the case of two stage Collaborative Research & Development (CR&D) competitions, this would be before the compulsory Expression of Interest (EOI) stage. In the case of two stage competitions, applicants would also have the opportunity to work with their design mentor between the EOI and the Full Stage deadline, although TSB would not cover any costs incurred. Should they wish, project consortia will be able to make provision for the continued use of design throughout the duration of their project.

How to request the design option

The design option will normally open on the same date as the competition, although organisations must register separately for the Design Option to access all of the supporting documents, including the request for design option form, by the date indicated. The deadline for the design option request form to be submitted will be published with the relevant competition information.

Please note that registering for the design option does not register an applicant for the full competition. Applicants must register and apply separately for this.

For more information on deadlines and how to apply, please see the competitions section of our website:

Who is the design option for?

Normally, any organisation that is considering taking the lead role in a project/consortium bidding for funding in a Technology Strategy Board funded (or co-funded) competition/call may request the design option. Applicants are reminded that, except in the case of SBRI projects, consortia must be business-led, and that academic institutions cannot be the lead partner. Only one request per project can be made for the design option in a competition. Recipients of the design option will be able to include all potential consortium members in meetings with the design mentor.

What criteria will be used in considering my request?

All design option requests that are considered by Technology Strategy Board, on the basis of the information provided on the request form, to be within scope of the competition will be awarded the design option. For budgetary reasons, we may in some cases cap the total number of design options awarded. We will indicate when the cap is in place, and will award design options on a first-come-first-served basis.

All applicants will be informed of the Technology Strategy Board’s decision by the deadline given. No additional feedback will be provided and there will be no further discussion on the request.

Applicants should check the competition documents for information concerning scope.

 Selecting a design mentor

 Successful applicants will be provided with a list of design mentors, including their biographies, locations and contact details. Recipients may engage any design mentor from within the list, although each one has a limited number of allocations, and these are filled on a first-come-first-served basis. Recipients will be required to contact the design mentors themselves, and will need to provide their reference number.

 Contractual arrangements for the design option

The Technology Strategy Board has commissioned the services of the design mentors and will reimburse them directly for their services up to the agreed limit. Design option recipients will not be required to make any payment to the design mentors, nor will they receive any funding from Technology Strategy Board.

The information about design and the examples given by the design mentors may be general in nature. The Technology Strategy Board will not provide the completed request for design option forms to the design mentors, so if recipients wish to share information about their project ideas with the design mentor in order to help them illustrate better the power of design in their particular case, they will have to provide this information themselves. If recipients wish to share confidential information with the design mentor the recipient will need to make their own arrangements with the design mentor in respect of Intellectual Property (IP) protection / any non-disclosure agreement before doing so.

Will taking up the design option influence the assessment process for the full competition?

No. The Technology Strategy Board will not provide its competition assessors with information about which applicants chose to participate in the design option scheme. The advantage of taking up the design option is in understanding what the use of design, particularly at early stages, might deliver to the project and its ultimate commercial success. Choosing to request the design option does not change the assessment criteria or process used in TSB competitions.

Note: The decision to request the design option, and subsequent use of design, rests entirely with the applicant. We have selected the design mentors on their ability to articulate and demonstrate the power of the use of design, but we have not accredited them.

Key Dates: design option

Each competition in which a design option is offered will make known the associated dates and deadlines. The design option will usually be available between competition opening and before the final deadline for applications, but applicants are advised to consult the competition literature for full details.

 Contact details


Competition helpline:

0300 3214857


Last updated on Thursday 12 July 2012 at 10:46

Copyright © 2013