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RCA Royal Visitor and Chancellor officially launch Terra Carta Design Lab

The Royal College of Art is collaborating with HRH The Prince of Wales’ Sustainable Markets Initiative to deliver the Terra Carta Design Lab, inviting students and recent alumni to develop credible and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

Following the launch of the Terra Carta in January this year, HRH The Prince of Wales (Royal Visitor to the RCA) and Sir Jony Ive (RCA Chancellor and former Chief Design Officer at Apple) have collaborated to invite some of the world’s most talented design students to develop credible and sustainable solutions to the climate and biodiversity crisis. 

Young and emerging architects, designers, scientists, engineers, historians, writers, and artists from the RCA community will be tasked with addressing the damage being done to our planet and creating solutions which align with the aims of the Terra Carta; drawing inspiration from, and giving back to, nature. Through the Terra Carta Design Lab, students will have the opportunity to explore this link using local initiatives to restore biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gases, support developing countries and catalyse a new economic and social model that realigns people with their environment. 

The RCA has a highly successful record of developing projects from ideas into reality, with students and alumni creating solutions with potential to transform how we live, but it can take a long time for these solutions to be supported into production. Two innovations from recent RCA graduates include The Tyre Collective - a unique collaboration of specialists tackling the emissions caused by tyre wear - and ZELP (Zero Emissions Livestock Project) - an innovative device worn by cattle to reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere.  

The Terra Carta Design Lab will harness that expertise, with inspiration from the Terra Carta and support from its private sector partners. The initiative will catalyse new climate solutions, with the potential for scale, at a pivotal moment for climate change, biodiversity loss and a just transition, as nations come together at COP26 to agree sustainable ways forward.  

Over 2,300 RCA students with an average age of 27, drawn from over 70 different countries, have been invited to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams drawn from the College’s four schools; Architecture, Arts & Humanities, Communication and Design. They will be joined by recent alumni of the RCA (from 2011-2021) who will bring real-world perspective and experience. 

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales said: “Small ideas can have a big impact if they are supported with the right design, science and engineering and that is the key idea behind today’s Terra Carta Design Lab. We only have 100 days until COP26, the big UN conference in Glasgow to tackle the climate and biodiversity, and we will all need to play our part, old and young, if we are to change how we look after the Earth, making it sustainable for Nature, People and Planet."

Sir Jony Ive, Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, said: “I’m incredibly proud to be part of the Terra Carta Design Lab founded by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. It's a visionary and imaginative way of helping address the world's increasingly urgent environmental problems. Often the biggest challenges demand the most ingenious, most creative thinking, which is why I’m so excited about the work that the RCA students will be able to contribute through this collaboration. I know that their creativity and inventiveness will develop truly powerful solutions. I’m delighted to be able to support this work both as a supporter of the Terra Carta, and in my role as Chancellor of the Royal College of Art.” 

Initial expressions of interest from the RCA community will be carefully assessed by a panel of senior academic staff from the College, which will progress a selection of projects based on their feasibility, measurable impact and potential to present engaging and inspiring solutions to urgent problems. In November, a final shortlist of up to 16 concepts will be assessed by a jury including HRH The Prince of Wales, Sir Jony Ive and Dr Paul Thompson, RCA Vice-Chancellor, as well as representatives of the Terra Carta Design Lab supporting partners, and strategic partners of the Sustainable Markets Initiative; Amazon, Octopus Energy, the Islamic Development Bank and Emerson. The shortlist will be announced during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in November, and in 2022 the winning designs will be chosen and supported in their development. 

The final selection of designs will have the opportunity to be mentored by Sir Jony Ive and introduced to the industry leads of HRH’s Sustainable Markets Initiative to help further develop their ideas and make them a reality, as well as receiving financial support. 

Dr Paul Thompson, Vice-Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, commented: “The combination of curiosity, creativity and technical skill is hugely potent and our students and alumni are testament to that. The climate and biodiversity crises we face are a truly existential threat to our planet and I’m delighted that the College’s Royal Visitor, HRH The Prince of Wales, and our Chancellor, Sir Jony Ive, are together inviting our community to contribute their talents to developing solutions to these problems. This initiative is a fantastic manifestation of what the Royal College of Art does best and I look forward to seeing the results in November.” 

RCA students and recent alumni (2011-2021) can register their interest in the Terra Carta Design Lab via this form. The deadline for expressions of interest is 27 August 2021.