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Win the grant funding race with user-centred design

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FACT. Many funding applications fail simply because businesses don’t fully understand their customer’s needs. Funders now expect businesses to be able to evidence how their product or service has been tested. That’s where user-centred design comes in. In this blog, we explain what it is and how you can win the grant funding race with user-centred design.

Winning Funding: Using Design Thinking and user-centred design to prove early innovation concepts

Competition for innovation funding is incredibly high with many businesses competing for the same support. To win the funding required to get your innovations off the ground it is important that you demonstrate not only passion and creativity but also pragmatism. De-risking your innovation process by demonstrating early proof of concept can help you stand out from a crowded field of ambitious ideas.

So how can you demonstrate proof of concept to funders? By using design thinking to create user-centric ideas that can be prototyped and tested to demonstrate value.

What is Design Thinking or User-Centred Design?

Design thinking is a systematic approach to innovation that employs human-centred design techniques to address complex problems. By focusing on human needs and requirements, design thinking helps innovators to create practical solutions to complex problems that can be quickly prototyped, tested, and iterated to progress early ideas to proven concepts.

Design thinking provides the perfect framework to maximise your creativity while ensuring that you keep your feet on the ground by testing ideas early and often as you work iteratively towards an idea that is ready for market.


Design thinking


Balancing User needs with Business needs and constraints to bring innovations to market

Design thinking focuses on uncovering human needs and converting this need into demand, but it’s not possible to bring innovative ideas to market by focusing only on needs. In design thinking all ideas are also measured against business viability and technical feasibility to ensure the ideas that are put forward to be developed can be delivered. True innovation is achievable – anything else is science fiction.

Sense checking our ideas through this lens helps to provide proof of concept in principle. Theoretically the idea that is brought forward for prototyping makes business sense, can be brought to market with the resources available, and has product-market fit according to previous user research.

Prototyping and Testing

In design thinking collecting early feedback on ideas is encouraged through iterative prototyping and testing. Prototyping doesn’t necessarily mean creating an MVP. Prototyping and testing ideas early and often mitigates risk by minimising time spent working on unsuitable ideas. Ideas can be prototyped and tested quickly using sketches, wireframes, role-play. Validating ideas in small experiments helps to build towards the creation of complex systems efficiently and effectively.

Prototyping and testing is the best way to demonstrate proof of concept. If you aren’t testing your ideas and collecting feedback from real users, it is very difficult to evidence robust proof of concept. Unproven business ideas represent high risk for funders and investors making it difficult to justify financial investment. Conversely, an idea which is supported by a lean and methodical testing process demonstrates value of the idea but also good practice on the part of the business which makes for a much safer investment prospect.

Want to find out more?

Learn how you can strengthen your funding bids and improve your innovation processes by joining our free event on Mon 13th June 2022 – “User Centred Design for Innovation & meet the funders

About the author

Laurence Eastment is Design Thinking Facilitator at Falmouth University. He supports established businesses and start-ups to embed user-centred innovation processes to support product development and business strategy.

Helen Young
Marketing and Communications Officer
Helen is an experienced marketer with a CIM Certificate in Professional Marketing.
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