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RCA School of Design students on a research visit with the RNLI

Key details


  • 10 March 2023


  • RCA

Read time

  • 5 minutes

The Royal College of Art has today announced the three winners of the RCA Grand Challenge 2022/23: Engaging Communities for Generating Marine Sustainable Economies as an exhibition of the shortlisted entries opens at the RCA Battersea campus.

Delivered in partnership with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), students were tasked with exploring the ways design can leverage and stimulate citizen science-led practices for increasing the health and productivity of the world’s oceans. This year’s Challenge aligns with the goals of the UNESCO Ocean Decade (2021-2030) for which the RCA has been named a Decade Implementing Partner.

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.

From today until 14 March 2023, the shortlisted projects will be on display to the public in the Grand Challenge exhibition at the RCA’s new Battersea campus designed by Herzog & de Meuron. These creative innovations demonstrate the effectiveness of a community-centred approach to design, whilst 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 seabeds, and upcycling abandoned boats.

The RCA Grand Challenge is the biggest single-institution postgraduate design project in the world. Established in 2016, the annual 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 including representatives from the RCA, the RNLI and the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The winning projects are:


Designed by Hugo Garcia (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering), Shenyang Xi (MA Design Products), Shanice Palmer (MA Fashion), Xiaoxu Cheng (MA Textiles), Sam Royle (MA Service Design).

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 brand new biodegradable seed casing made from seaweed algae and crushed oyster shell to make planting more efficient.


Designed by Tarika Kumar (MA/MSc Global Innovation Design), Hanbo Zhan (MA Design Products), Danyi Zhang (MA Service Design), Jialin Feng (MA Fashion), and Emily Trenton (MA Textiles).

GoWater is an integrated system consisting of a wearable sensor, a virtual map, and a data distribution system which empowers locals and visitors to contribute water quality data to charitable organisations through water sports activities in the Gower Peninsula in Wales.

On behalf of the judging panel, Stephanie Ockenden, Head of Ocean and Climate Change Policy at the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said:[GoWater’s] approach to engaging citizens is on a really pertinent topic that drives forward change.”

THIRD PLACE: Pollenwave

Designed by Abigail Hoover (MA/MSc Global Innovation Design), Zijin Ling (MA Design Products), Yipeng Wang (MA Service Design), Richard Alexandre (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering).

Inspired by the severe decline of wild Atlantic salmon in Stranocum, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, Pollenwave is a biodegradable sensor system that monitors the temperature, pH, and oxygen levels in remote ocean locations. Spread in the ocean through underwater autonomous vehicles the sensors provide a more granular understanding of the environmental changes that affect marine life.

Claire Deuchar, Chief Information Officer at the RNLI, said: ‘The three winning entries all showed great potential to provide innovative solutions. The overall winner 'Sea Seeds' could help to protect future marine environments and generate significant carbon capture. The RNLI is pleased to partner with the RCA and be involved in this project to help create a more sustainable future so that we can all enjoy the water safely. We would like to thank RNLI volunteers for their time and insight to support these aims.’

The runners up in the 2022/23 Grand Challenge are:

Insoluble Solutions

Designed by Xiaoyi Ye (MA Design Products), Xinyu Liu (MA Fashion), Ziwen Niu (MA Textiles), Tegan Mills (MA Service Design).

Insoluble Solutions is a filtration system that attracts and captures jellyfish from the estuary at Marchwood, Hampshire, extracting their mucus and collecting microplastics from the water.

The Great Boat Upcycling Challenge

Designed by Bhushan Deshmukh (MA Intelligent Mobility), Jiayi Wang (MA Design Products), Jiyun Xia (MA Fashion), Jacob Monk (MA Textiles), Isha Ghaisas (MA Service Design).

The Great Boat Upcycling Challenge is a TV show concept which would see teams express their creativity by upcycling abandoned boats from along the Truro River in a Creative Reality Show format. The work would be displayed and judged at an exhibition in Truro, called ‘The Boat Graveyard’.

Professor Paul Anderson, Dean of the School of Design at the RCA, said: ‘This year’s Grand Challenge, working in partnership with the RNLI, has provided fascinating insights into understanding coastal communities, their interactions and connections between shoreline and the sea around the UK. Our designers have been investigating and developing new innovative solutions and approaches towards developing New Economic Models for the Ocean (NEMO) and therefore it is hugely impactful to gather data that allows deeper understanding towards developing solutions that protect the environment, protect species and support human activity.’

The RCA Grand Challenge 2022/23 was delivered in partnership with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).


For further information please contact the RCA Press Office at [email protected].

Notes to Editors

About the Royal College of Art

Founded in 1837, the Royal College of Art is the world's leading university of art and design. Specialising in teaching and research, the RCA offers degrees of MA, MPhil, MRes and PhD across the disciplines of architecture, arts & humanities, design and communications.

A small, specialist and research-intensive postgraduate university based in the heart of London, the RCA provides 2500 students with unrivalled opportunities to deliver art and design projects that transform the world.

The RCA's approach is founded on the premise that art, design, creative thinking, science, engineering and technology must all collaborate to solve today's global challenges.

The RCA is home to more than 700 of the world’s leading academic and professional staff who teach and develop students in 30 academic programmes. RCA students are exposed to new knowledge in a way that encourages them to experiment.

The RCA runs joint courses with Imperial College London and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

InnovationRCA, the university's centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship, incubation and business support, has helped over 78 RCA business ideas become a reality that has led to the creation of over 800 UK jobs.

Alumni include such major figures as Sunil Gupta, Esther Teichmann, Henry Moore OM, Dame Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley, David Hockney OM, Sir Peter Blake, Sir Ridley Scott, Dame Zandra Rhodes, Sir Frank Bowling, Ian Dury, Sir James Dyson OM, Tracey Emin RA CBE, Chris Ofili CBE, Sir Anthony Finkelstein, Sir David Adjaye, Erdem Moralioglu MBE, Philip Treacy OBE, Julian MacDonald OBE, Christopher Bailey CBE and Thomas Heatherwick RDI, CBE.

The RCA was named the world's leading university of art and design in the QS World Rankings 2022 for the eighth consecutive year (QS World Subject Rankings 2015-2022).


About the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands.

The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.


News releases, videos and photos are available on the RNLI News Centre.

Get in touch

For further information please contact the RCA Press Office

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[email protected]
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