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Programme Overview

Innovation Design Engineering

Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) is looking to create a new type of designer, one that has innovation-focused thinking, refined design skills and engineering or technology mastery. Their remit is to fully exploit creativity, to deliver social and economic benefits through design and to achieve commercial success through innovation. 

IDE Studio
IDE Studio
Photographer: Richard Haughton

Design is no longer a purely object-orientated activity. The research, strategy, experience, system – indeed everything around, before, after and supporting the product proposition – is now within the designers' influence. Whether it is experimental exploration, market-focused product innovations or projects driven by new business models and commercial planning in IDE, we are looking for people who can innovate masterfully within this broad spectrum, who have a point of view, who will search out what the questions are and who will be the future agents of change.

Participants in IDE take advantage of the skills and cultures of two very different organisations: a predominantly technical university (Imperial College London) and a college of art and design (Royal College of Art). The result is the rigour and precision of science, technology and engineering in combination with the inspirational and creative aspects of design. The Programme fosters a collaborative approach involving multidisciplinary team working and encourages external commercial involvement. Graduates will head into diverse creative careers as consultants, innovators, entrepreneurs, freelancers or within corporations.

MA + MSc Double Master's Joint Programme with Imperial College London

The Innovation Design Engineering Programme provides a unique joint two-year double Master's with Imperial College London. All graduates receive an MA from the RCA and an MSc plus a Diploma from Imperial College London.

In the first year, students embark on a range of taught modules, workshops and master classes to develop skills and experience. These include working with commercial partners (recent examples are: Ford, Unilever, Vodafone and Airbus) and (funding allowing) international exchanges.

In the second year, students complete two long self-initiated projects; a group project and a solo project. Over half of the projects in IDE are group based, and several involve collaborations with other programmes at the RCA.

During the first year students elect into one of two learning strands:

  • Disruptive Market Innovations: DMI is core IDE territory and is about delivering innovative products to the market that work.
  • Experimental Design: EXP is for design innovation at a fundamental level, which may incorporate the exploration of new technologies, new product categories or new contexts.

Enterprise Teaching

In IDE we encourage students to consider commercialisation and entrepreneurship, and teaching support is provided for this. Successfully launching ideas, products or services into the world can be a dance of economics, the social sciences, the arts of finance and accounting, marketing and technology, but many are interested in following this path. Existing IDE alumni companies include Omlet, Concrete Canvas and DIY Kyoto (see Graduate Destinations). We are looking not only to add to the number of enterprises but also to significantly increase their ambition.


Design is a global activity, and so the programme fully embraces international project working. In the first year (funding allowing), students work on a project in partnership with another country. In the past, IDE collaborations have included exploring rural–urban migration issues with Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; the future of food at Tsukuba University, Japan; and considering the growth of the creative industries in Ghana. The programme also has strong collaborative links with universities around the world.

The cultural diversity and gender balance of our multinational student group enhances a world view of the role and practice of design. Typically, the male/female ratio is close to 60:40, with 75 students from over 15 countries worldwide.


Many people see sustainability as simply an eco-caring stance, a ‘green’ policy, but we tend to look at the theme as a wide blanket of issues. We, as people involved in the creation of products or services that will alter the way others live, have a responsibility to ensure that the impact of every one of our design decisions is positive and not negative. Sustainability within IDE defines the elements of your working practice or approach that show the world that you can create responsibly by responding to issues outside of what might be considered the ‘traditional’ remit of design (e.g. fulfilling functional or aesthetic objectives). This is not easy: sustainability involves complex and sometimes contradictory issues, and at times can appear to be in conflict with the meaning and goals of ‘traditional’ design. But if 'design is about making things better for people', then we cannot design without taking into account the wider context. The thematic issues or parameters we have identified as falling under the sustainability umbrella are: Environmental, Social/Ethical and Economic.

Group Working

Students often work in teams and with other disciplines. Over half the projects are group based, and several involve collaborations with other at the RCA. Previously, the first-year students have worked with the Textiles, Vehicle Design, Visual Communication and History of Design programmes, as well as Research Associates from the Helen Hamlyn Centre for  Design.

Commercial Project Partners

The course runs some modules with company sponsorship, where students are exposed to real-world briefs, deadlines and client feedback. There are also summer project opportunities with industry, and all students are encouraged to find summer placement work experience. Recent industrial partners are Ford, Coca Cola, Airbus, BBC, Unilever, Vodafone (Future agenda), LG and Guzzini.

  • Professional Practice

    The IDE programme supports career development by tailoring professional practice provision for students to the culture of the discipline. Information, training and advice on work and life skills are also available centrally through FuelRCA.