The Royal College of Art (RCA) has announced the three winners of the RCA Grand Challenge 2022/23: Engaging Communities for Generating Marine Sustainable Economies.
Delivered in partnership with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the challenge asked students to explore the ways in which design can leverage and stimulate citizen-science-led practices for increasing the health and productivity of the world’s oceans.
In January, 97 student groups partnered with RNLI volunteers across the UK, with the RNLI’s integration within these diverse coastline communities providing a valuable network to connect the student groups to the local populations and the ocean. The resulting design solutions are all aimed at increasing the resilience of UK coastal communities.
According to the RCA, the creative innovations demonstrate the effectiveness of a community-centred approach to design, while revealing intriguing qualitative data about ocean-based economies in the UK. The devised solutions address a range of topics, including increasing sea grass growth, reducing the erosion of the seabed and upcycling abandoned boats.
The annual RCA Grand Challenge is the world’s largest single-institution postgraduate design project. Established in 2016, the challenge runs across the entire School of Design, bringing together MA students in a range of disciplines, including design products, fashion, innovation design engineering, global innovation design, intelligent mobility, service design and textiles. Students are briefed to tackle key global challenges through collaboration and by responding to social, cultural and economic factors, as well as science and technology.
The three winning projects were chosen by a judging panel that included representatives from the RCA, the RNLI and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The first-placed project, Sea Seeds, is a circular eco-hobbying concept developed from Oban, Scotland, that enables kayakers, sailors and other water enthusiasts to give back to the environment by planting new seagrass while enjoying the ocean. It incorporates a biodegradable seed casing made from seaweed and crushed oyster shell to make planting more efficient.
The second-placed project, GoWater, is an integrated system consisting of a wearable sensor, a virtual map and a data-distribution system that empowers locals and visitors to contribute water-quality data to charitable organisations through water sports activities in the Gower Peninsula in Wales.
The third-placed project, Pollenwave, was inspired by the severe decline of wild Atlantic salmon in Stranocum, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It features a biodegradable sensor system that monitors the temperature, pH and oxygen levels in remote ocean locations. Spread in the ocean by underwater autonomous vehicles, the sensors provide a more granular understanding of the environmental changes that affect marine life.