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Grand Challenge 2017 Workshop

The Grand Challenge 2016/17 took on two water-related safety issues: ship-to-ship transfers and future city river safety.

At a glance

  • The Grand Challenge is a unique and innovative learning experience for MA students in the School of Design.
  • 2016/17 saw the RCA’s School of Design partner with Lloyd's Register Foundation to explore how design-led innovation can bring new life-saving design solutions to safety at sea and on rivers.
  • Students from across the School of Design worked in interdisciplinary teams to identify life-saving and risk reduction innovations for future deployment on the River Thames.

“Safety in relation to safe ship boarding and around rivers is of global concern. Hundreds of people die each year as a result of unsafe practices, risky behaviours or lack of information and understanding. Our team of postgraduate designers, researchers and academics have worked together to research, design and develop new innovations that bring multidisciplinary innovative solutions targeting design risk and safety on water.”

Professor Ashley Hall Professor of Design Innovation


More information

Lloyd's Register Foundation

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is an independent global charity with a unique structure and an important mission: engineering a safer world.

They reduce risk and enhance the safety of the critical infrastructure that modern society relies upon in areas such as energy, transport and food. They do this by supporting high quality research, accelerating technology to application and through education and public outreach.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Lloyds Register
Port of London Authority
International Marine Pilots Association
Associated British Ports
Marine Accident Investigation Bureau
Marine Pilots Association
Royal Navy Command
Confidential Incident Hazards Reporting Programme

The Lloyds Register Safety Grand Challenge in 2016/17 took on two water-related safety issues: ship-to-ship transfers and future city river safety:

  • The work of marine pilots is central to guiding ships into port safely and keeping populations well supplied. Each year injuries and fatalities occur transferring from ship-to-ship via pilot ladders around the world.
  • City rivers are undergoing unprecedented development pressures from transportation and recreation: future developments along the Thames aiming to deliver the Mayor’s ‘City in the East’ vision propose 200,000 new homes in the vicinity of the river, with passenger river journeys rising from 8.5m to 12m by 2020.

Partnering with the RNLI, the Grand Challenge aimed to make the River Thames the safest river by the year 2030. A team of academics, researchers and postgraduate designers from the Royal College of Art worked together to research, design and prototype seven major ideas that bring multi-disciplinary innovative solutions to tackle design risk and safety on water.

  • RCA students focused their efforts on design solutions that specifically consider safer ship-to-ship transfers and improving life-saving and risk reduction innovations for future deployment on the River Thames.
  • Students developed designs through field trips to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the Port of London Authority.
  • Detailed feedback was provided from maritime experts from Lloyd's Register, The UK Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation and Maritime (CHIRP), International Maritime Pilots Association, the International Maritime Rescue Federation, the Foundation for Science and Technology and Nesta.
  • An exhibition of the eight design projects was held at the Lloyd's Register Foundation’s offices in London and students presented their ideas to a judging panel of industry experts.

The two winning projects both concerned the pilot ladder:

Best innovation prize, based upon their use of advanced manufacturing materials and processes, went to Dynaweb, designed by Chia Cheng Kung, Chih-Hsing Huang, Irene Chiu and Nick Hooton.


Best risk reduction, with the most immediate potential, went to Cross Lock System (CLS), designed by Andrea Carrera, Madelaine Jane Dowd, Mikhail Wertheim Aymés and Sarah Cronin Rodger.

Cross Lock System

The judging panel were: Dr Tim Slingsby, Director of Skills & Education, Lloyd’s Register Foundation (panel chair); from the Royal College of Art – Professor Paul Anderson, Dean of the School of Design and Professor Ashley Hall, Deputy Head of Innovation Design Engineering; from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – Dr Will Roberts, Senior Innovation Manager, Jeff Gould, Head of Innovation and Tim Robertson, Innovation Delivery Manager; Chris Hoyles, Marine Pilot at Associated British Ports; and Dr Vanessa Forbes, Lloyd’s Register’s health, safety, environment and sustainability Global Operations Manager.

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