Engineering design

Theories, methods and tools for generating, modelling, optimising, simulating and reasoning about complex engineered systems (including products, processes, systems and product-service systems).

Core to our strategy in this area are: continued support for fundamental, multidisciplinary research; and encouragement of a research model where innovation is driven by discoveries. We will build on current investments as outlined in the previous Action Plan strategy (Evidence source 1).

By the end of the Delivery Plan period, we aim to have:

  • Encouraged a strategic focus towards Engineering Design research that underpins the creation and translation of emerging manufacturing technologies. For example, digital manufacturing will require a more integrated, seamless approach to Engineering Design research across the entire supply chain
  • An established community in this research area with the skills necessary to adapt to the changing UK landscape, including a champion and/or group able to raise awareness of the underpinning nature of Engineering Design
  • Embedded Engineering Design across sectors and encouraged research into fundamental tools and methodologies that will aid industrial adoption and address challenges related to the circular economy, sustainability and resource efficiency
  • Promoted opportunities for research across interfaces and via international collaboration. The cross-cutting nature of Engineering Design is reflected in our portfolio in this area, with a significant proportion of research relevant to one or more sectors and across Research Councils, especially the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Engineering Design has a strong base in the UK. This is evidenced by UK contributions to and leadership of conferences and journal series such as: Design Studies; Journal of Engineering Design; American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); Journal of Mechanical Design; and Research in Engineering Design. The UK’s unique capability lies in developing underpinning theories (e.g. design theory) and methodologies.

Design research underpins a number of sectors important to the UK economy and plays a critical role in contributing to the UK’s overall productivity. This is evidenced by the Cox Report (Evidence source 2) the Aerospace Technology Institute’s (ATI’s) Technology Strategy (Evidence source 3,4) and the five-year joint Programme for Simulation and Innovation (PSi) between Jaguar Land Rover and EPSRC.

The emergence of digital manufacturing will require new ways of designing products, processes and systems. The potential of Engineering Design to contribute in this field is being recognised globally, particularly at the Digital Lab for Manufacturing in the US.

Capability is thinly spread across the UK; only a small number of universities host significant activity. Since 2011, EPSRC investment in critical-mass activities in this research area reduced, resulting in a loss of capacity and identity. Over the course of the last Delivery Plan, the number of Early Career Fellowships rose from three to four and the number of Established Career Fellowships remained at one. The availability of people, and the skills/expertise necessary to adapt to the changing UK landscape remains a concern.

Significant potential to contribute to the Productive Nation Outcome. Specific Ambitions of relevance include:

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

This research area will facilitate discovery of innovative, disruptive products and technologies.

P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs

This area will help to increase productivity through the development of innovative, efficient whole-system solutions.

P3: Establish a new place for industry that is built upon a ‘make it local, make it bespoke’ approach

An awareness of Engineering Design when considering ‘local, bespoke’ manufacture will help support materials supply and methods of fabrication.

P4: Drive business innovation through digital transformation

The development of advanced digital technologies can be accelerated by implementing effective Engineering Design tools and methodologies.

P5: Transform to a sustainable society, with a focus on the circular economy

This research area will facilitate discovery of materials, systems and processes that will help the UK to transition to a more sustainable society.

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Engineering design (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Rhia Visavadia
Job title: Manager
Department: Manufacturing
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444097