Great innovation is the beating heart of the UK economy, designing our future through world leading products that not only change lives but break new ground, build businesses, jobs, and grow the UK economy.

Sarah Weir OBE, Chief Executive, Design Council

What is Design Council Spark?

Our Spark programme provides design expertise to help shape business opportunities and develop product innovations through an intensive process, which also gives access to specialists across business, IP, investment and marketing.

Up to 10 finalists are selected onto the programme comprising of five core workshops led by a team of design experts, as well as one-to-one input from specialists in a variety of fields. The programme runs over a 16-week time frame during which finalists also gain access to Design Council Spark's network and our extensive community of past ventures.

Once accepted onto the programme all finalists receive an initial sum of £15,000 to help develop their product, as well as the opportunity to pitch in front of an investment panel for a share of up to £150,000 further funding to fast-track their product to market.

What we are looking for

Spark categories - described below

Design Council Spark is looking to turn bright ideas into brilliant home improvement products transforming the experience of getting around, remembering things or doing day-to-day tasks such as:

  • Getting up/going to bed
  • Washing and bathing
  • Getting dressed
  • Cooking and eating
  • Working
  • Gardening
  • Cleaning
  • Answering the door
  • Sitting
  • Relaxing

Even if you have an idea that doesn’t fit into any of these areas but still improves someone’s life, then please do apply.

Through our partnership with Alzheimer’s Society we will be looking at products specifically designed to aid people affected by dementia. Successful applicants of these products will benefit during the programme from opportunities for support from people affected by dementia, allowing for in-depth insights and product testing.

How Design Council Spark kick-started a difficult design project We spoke to Nick Rawcliffe, a mechanical engineer who joined the Spark programme with his innovative folding cycle helmet. We spoke to Nick Rawcliffe, a mechanical engineer who joined the Spark programme with his innovative folding cycle helmet.

Feature — 01/02/2018

How it works

The Design Council Spark journey

Spark journey - described below

Have a bright idea?

We look for bright product ideas that are at sketch, prototype or planning stage with IP and business registered in the UK. 

Apply

We want to know more about you, your idea, the size of the market and your plans for your product in the future.

Make the shortlist

We will notify shortlisted applicants to offer them a position in Design Camp, where you will be introduced to the programme and supported to get ‘pitch ready’.

Attend Design Camp

Design Camp is an intensive two-day boot camp, where we help you to refine your product idea and prepare you for your pitch for a place on Design Council Spark. Pitches will be filmed for the Design Council Spark Fund Panel to review.

Become a finalist

Up to 10 finalists will be selected to join the Design Council Spark programme, which is designed to help you test your idea and develop a business plan. The programme delivers a series of workshops led by specialist design experts, one-to-one mentoring and a £15,000 grant to assist with testing and developing your product idea.

Pitch for the Design Council Spark Award

On completion of the programme all finalists will pitch for a share of additional funding of up to £150,000 to accelerate their product ideas to market.

Brightest Sparks announced

Up to five products will be awarded a share of a further investment pot.

Make a difference

On completion of the programme, finalists will keep in contact with Design Council Spark and vice versa. Design Council Spark is keen to assist ventures to progress their products to the market. 

Spark really helped to take us from a basic prototype to full production and a successful product launch. Two years on and Rockit has sold nearly 40,000 units worldwide.

Matt Dyson, CEO – Rockit (Finalist 2016)

How you contribute to Design Council Spark

Design Council Spark is unique in that we do not ask for any equity from your product and we do not own any of your product’s intellectual property. Instead, in exchange for the support provided, finalists contribute a small percentage of their product sales to the Design Council Spark Fund, which we reinvest to support the next round of successful Design Council Spark finalists on their product endeavour. As a charity, Design Council does not make profit from this money. This money is set aside to fund the Spark programme, and future Spark cycles to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Mentors and Specialists

Design Council has a network of specialists and mentors which are invited to all networking events, workshops and one-to-one sessions. They provide guidance through the programme as well as offer knowledge, insights and access to contacts to help you progress through your Design Council Spark journey.

Design Council Spark is funded through a combination of philanthropic and charitable funding. This year we are delighted that Alzheimer’s Society will be a partner of the programme.

Partnership with Alzheimer’s Society

Alzheimer’s Society is the only UK charity that campaigns for change, funds research to find a cure and supports people living with dementia today. As the largest and most influential dementia charity in the UK, they are calling on everyone to unite. Working together they know they will achieve their vision – a world without dementia.

In partnership with

Alzheimer's Society logo

Inspiration

TickleFLEX: The Design Council Spark awardee whose device for diabetics has revolutionised... As someone with Type 1 diabetes, Peter Bailey is only too aware of the daily, often uncomfortable, challenges of self-injecting insulin. So he came up with the TickleFLEX, a product that controls the needle depth and blocks the pain pathways, and which saw him become a finalist of Design Council... 2016 finalist Peter Bailey talks about being diabetic, the power of positive feedback and why Spark was a springboard to his success.

Feature — 28/02/2019

Design Council Spark finalist Rhinamite – an idea for stopping nosebleeds is set to help... When junior doctor Wendy Minks encountered the recurring problem of patients with nosebleeds, she devised Rhinamite – a nose clip specially designed to deal with the issue. Now, thanks to Design Council Spark, the 2016 awardee is well on the way to bringing it to market – for use not just in... When junior doctor Wendy Minks encountered the recurring problem of patients with nosebleeds, she devised Rhinamite.

Feature — 13/02/2019

How Design Council Spark kick-started a difficult design project We spoke to Nick Rawcliffe, a mechanical engineer who joined the Spark programme with his innovative folding cycle helmet. We spoke to Nick Rawcliffe, a mechanical engineer who joined the Spark programme with his innovative folding cycle helmet.

Feature — 01/02/2018

Advice

How Design Council Spark kick-started a difficult design project We spoke to Nick Rawcliffe, a mechanical engineer who joined the Spark programme with his innovative folding cycle helmet. We spoke to Nick Rawcliffe, a mechanical engineer who joined the Spark programme with his innovative folding cycle helmet.

Feature — 01/02/2018

Design Council Spark FAQs Have a question about Design Council Spark? The answer is probably here! Have a question about Design Council Spark? The answer is probably here!

Feature — 02/02/2019

Design Council Spark: An opportunity for all Our core belief at Design Council Spark is that anybody can have a life changing idea that will benefit the public. Our core belief at Design Council Spark is that anybody can have a life changing idea that will benefit the public.

Feature — 25/10/2017

Crowdfunding: changing how you bring a product to market Jess Ratty, Brand Communications Manager at Crowdfunder, discusses how you can use crowdfunding platforms to bring your product to market. Jess Ratty, Brand Communications Manager at Crowdfunder, discusses how you can use crowdfunding platforms to bring your product to market.

Feature — 26/05/2015

The Design Council Spark awardee breaking new ground with his digging device Nick Skaliotis invented the Kikka Digga – an easy-to-use gardening tool that makes light work of digging. Here he talks about his lightbulb moment, memorable marketing opportunities and why Spark was just the boost he needed. Nick Skaliotis invented the Kikka Digga – an easy-to-use gardening tool that makes light work of digging.

Feature — 27/03/2019