Research led by Dr Stuart English at Northumbria University School of Design demonstrates that an organisation’s capacity for innovation is dependent upon the way it perceives problems and opportunities. Organisational perception is often dominated by pre-conceptions and familiar approaches which may be inaccurate or not the best fit for current challenges. This dominant perception creates a tunnel-vision that excludes alternative potential opportunities or approaches, and thereby limits innovation and growth. Through applied research working with SMEs, multinational business and public sector organisations, English and his collaborators have observed how integrated mind-mapping techniques can provide team-based workshop activities that have the potential to draw together multiple centres of enquiry. This can enable alternative ways of seeing problems and opportunities to be communicated visually within the same map. Iteration of these techniques with 80 collaborating organisations resulted in the Multiple Perspective Problem Framing (MPPF) approach to design-led innovation.
MPPF involves collecting data from widely different perspectives and synthesising this into one complex dynamic map of interrelated factors (a “value arena”). This is combined with novel methods of interpreting complexity (eg “relational grouping” and “centrifuge”) to arrive at a set of “Cornerstones of Innovation”; critical framing factors that create the space in which fully contextualised innovative strategies can be generated. They also underpin the articulation of “universal form” that describes a genre of things, that can describe new products and strategies and have even formed the claims of patented inventions. MPPF involves methods for understanding and interpreting problems and situations that help to facilitate a paradigm shift. The MPPF approach enables organisations to navigate the design terrain and determine their commercial value by mapping data pertaining to the company and its relationship with technology, intellectual property, and commercialisation, onto a single canvas, which enables potential strategies to be evaluated in the context of diverse and interrelated parameters . MPPF also enables organisations to develop or refine their innovation strategy and product and service roadmaps going forward to meet industrial and sectoral trends.
This research studentship aims to examine the impact of MPPF method through a longitudinal case study analysis with collaborating organisations.
The Principal Supervisor for this project is Dr Stuart English
Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
· Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
· Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
· Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.
For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22/ADSS/DES/ENGLISH) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022
Start Date: 1 October 2022
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.