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This year’s Grand Challenge saw students across the RCA’s School of Design explore London as a coastal city using co-design with local communities to address complex and urgent challenges.

At a glance:

  • The RCA Grand Challenge is the biggest single-institution postgraduate design project in the world.
  • The initiative promotes interdisciplinary collaboration across School of Design programmes to address ocean-related challenges of broader societal relevance. This year, close to 700 students are taking part from MA programmes as diverse as Design Products, Fashion, Innovation Design Engineering, Intelligent Mobility, Service Design and Textiles.
  • The RCA Grand Challenge 2023/24 is part of the RCA’s work as a UNESCO Ocean Decade Implementing Partner, supporting efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health.

Key details


More information

The RCA Grand Challenge 2023/24: Ocean & Cities, brings London closer to the ocean, exploring a wide range of design challenges at the interface of land and sea.

The projects support behaviour change among citizens and organisations through the use of ocean science, co-design and place-based approaches to address the impacts of cities on the ocean and increase city resilience to ocean-related impacts of climate change.

Exploring London as a coastal city, students defined specific challenges to address, from the protection of marine ecosystems and flood mitigation to sustainable fishing and increased ocean literacy. In January, 140 student teams partnered with communities across each of London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London to engage with different forms of ocean science. The students' design proposals are grounded in real locations across the capital and seek to recognise the unique relationships between local stakeholders and the ocean. The students utilised Maptionnaire, a digital community engagement platform, to engage with local citizens, and applied co-design methods to co-create with people whose lives could be improved by the design outcomes.

The student groups have submitted video presentations of their designs and 13 projects have been selected for the shortlist. These creative speculative design proposals demonstrate the effectiveness of a community-centred approach to design and address a range of topics including flood mitigation, sustainable packaging in collaboration with the seafood industry, and reducing fatbergs in sewage systems.

From 21-27 March 2024 (excluding 24 March), a Grand Challenge exhibition showcasing the shortlisted projects opened to the public in The Hangar at the RCA Battersea campus. Three winning projects were chosen by a judging panel including representatives from DEFRA, NOC, UNESCO, and Wandsworth Council.

The three winning projects were chosen by a judging panel including representatives from the RCA, UNESCO, the National Oceanography Centre, Wandsworth Council and the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

FIRST PLACE: Thames Mussel Conservation Centre and Barking Barges

Designed by Keerthi Pradaa Balajee (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering), Jinglei Cao (MA Service Design), Yiming Pan (MA Fashion), Thomas Scrimgeour (MA Design Products).


Designed by Watanya Aekplakorn (MA Service Design), Claire Lee (MA Fashion), Ching Hang Ng (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering), Dawoon Yim (MA Design Products), Ruyi Yu (MA Textiles).

THIRD PLACE: Bexley’s EELvolution

Designed by Raveena Rajesh Batham (MA Design Products), Lucy Katherine Bishop (MA Textiles), Minmin Ke (MA Fashion), Wen Xing (MA Intelligent Mobility), Xinyu Zhu (MA Service Design).

Special Commendation for Best Co-Design Project: 2049 Oceans Committee of Enfield

Designed by Anna Gao (MA Fashion), Kelly Harrigan (MA Design Products), Yiwen Tai (MA Service Design), Yixin Xu (MA Design Products), Xinyue Zhang (MA Textiles).

Special Commendation for Best Participatory Mapping: Aquatic Ecologist Scout Pack

Designed by Xiaotong Liu (MA Fashion), Daisy McClay (MA Textiles), Vishal Mehta (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering), Xiaozhuo Jiang (MA Service Design), Hongyu Wu (MA Design Products).

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