Collaborating on a Design Foundations project

Frances Brown 

Three people standing in front of town market. They are smiling into the camera.

Wendy Walker, Frances Brown and Ophelia Gamble

Innovate UK announced a new round of Design Foundations funding in May 2023. The aim of this competition was to help businesses use design methods to lay the foundations for innovative ideas. Because applicants were encouraged to work with design experts, a number of companies who were aware of Nightingale’s strong track record in providing rigorous design research for early stage ideas approached us asking us to collaborate on an application.

One such company was The High Street Experts, a small but highly experienced team that have years of experience in providing practical and effective support and advice to high street retailers and street markets. They wanted to further develop the tools they offered and felt the funding combined with our expertise would allow them to do that.

Together, we went through the (somewhat gruelling) process of creating a convincing application. Wendy and Ophelia brought the ideas as well as years of industry experience; the Nightingale team brought the knowledge of how to use research to shape those ideas into an innovation with real potential. The competition for this funding was high but our previous experience of working on grant-funded projects, as well as our knowledge of how to structure and cost a research project allowed us to create a coherent, credible application. We were delighted to find out in September 2023 that, out of the 415 applications Innovate UK received, we were one of only 52 to be successful. We began the process of setting up the project, providing the various documents and information required, meeting our monitoring officer and planning how to implement the various work packages we had set out in our project plan. 

Ophelia Gamble, High Street Specialist & Market Operator of The High Street Experts, emphasises the importance of this project for the future of high street markets:  This body of research will provide us with data that will make a difference to high street markets by giving them a blueprint, a model to follow, which in turn will create a positive social & economic impact to their high streets

Together we have visited markets around the UK to talk to market operators, traders and shoppers to understand their experiences and needs. 

We have also carried out surveys of shoppers and traders to validate our findings.

We’ve use the insights generated to develop prototypes of digital tools that address the specific challenges of all the stakeholders.

The project is now it's final phase of prototype testing to ensure the final solutions are practical and effective.

Check out our company page on LinkedIn for updates on the project as it progresses.

The design foundations programme aligns with our expertise in exploring the potential of early stage ideas and laying the foundations for the design of successful products and services. We’re excited to see what this collaboration will reveal.

Could design foundations funding fast track your innovation?

If you would like some advice on whether your project is suitable for Innovate UK funding, or you would like to bring Nightingale on board as a subcontractor, we'd love to hear from you.