LRF Grand Challenge: Safety at Sea

Lloyds Register Foundation

Project Leaders: Professor Ashley Hall, Dr Laura Ferrarello, Michael Kann

Number of participants: 30

Duration: 5 days


The Lloyds Register Foundation (LRF) is a charity funded by profits from Lloyds shipping register and is one of the largest in the UK situated in the city of London. The LRF would like to diversify thinking around risk at sea and following a series of discussions with the RCA have decided to fund their first ever ‘Grand Challenge’ student design competition and combined research project in the RCA school of design.


We have two proposed project areas to tackle. The first is with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) who have recently set up an innovation centre and would like to explore findings from a series of future scoping workshops looking at new challenges and innovation opportunities for saving lives in and around the river Thames which has the busiest lifeboat station in the country. This project involves communities and stakeholders in the prevention of water flooding. Climate change, Internet of Things, increased urbanization of the Thames and TFL plans to increase river transport infrastructure. These are some of the drivers of the project that students need to address while developing ideas and making prototypes.

The RNLI was founded in 1824 and since then has saved over 140,000 lives at sea. The current operation has 4,600 volunteers lifeboat crew manning a fleet of 444 vessels and 3,000 shore based volunteers operating from 237 lifeboat stations.

The second project is around pilot ladder transfers. This is a process where a pilot navigating large ships into port needs to board a ship to guide it into harbour. This process has not changed for hundreds of years and still results in many fatalities and accidents every year.

The LRF want to encourage blue-sky innovative design thinking in all these areas that are in need of new approaches. The across RCA week starts with developing concepts and the final output will be a series of models, prototypes, test rigs and design proposals to reduce risk at sea exhibited in a public exhibition in January 2017. We are only looking for people who are willing to commit to working on the whole of this interdisciplinary group based project during Across RCA and continuing into January.


Monday: Briefing at RCA

AM: Briefing session. Project structure, timeline, scope, background and related literature will be presented to students.


– Lecture by expert (Lecture by experts and Q&ANeil Withers – RNLI Thames Operations ManagerSusan Cianchetta – RNLI Thames Review Project ManagerChristopher Hoyle – Marine Pilot at Associated Ports

Students will be divided in groups (3/4 max);

– Research deep immersion into safety at sea

– Homework: students need to watch the required videos that tutors will provide in the morning session;

Tuesday: Brainstorming at RCA

AM: Brainstorming session;

During the day students will be working in and across groups to brainstorm possible design ideas. We will employ designing thinking methodologies that will challenge students approach towards the subject. At the end of the day we will pin up sketches produced by the groups and debrief them in relation to the RNLI visit on Tuesday.

PM Concept sifting and selection to arrive at the best 3 per group by the end of the day.

Wednesday: RNLI Lifeboat station Thames visit

AM: RNLI Lifeboat Station and Port of London Authority (PLA) visit.
Visit to the RNLI Lifeboat Station and Port of London Authority (PLA) in Gravesend. Students will be experiencing a pilot transfer with the help, monitor and support of RNLI and PLA experts. PLA will give a presentation about pilot transfers.

PM: At the end of the day we will debrief the project at the RCA.

Thursday: Refining and making RCA

Students will work in groups to refine their 3 best concepts and make sketch models.

Friday: Final review and mini-exhibition RCA

AM: Students will be finalising their models and concepts. Preparing presentation.

PM:A review panel composed of tutors and project partners from the LRF and RNLI Innovation Lab will participate to the review of the final project.

Project working structure:

Students work in interdisciplinary groups of three/four. Each group should have representatives from different programmes. They will be supported by a group of 5 tutors (Prof Ashley Hall, Dr Laura Ferrarello, Mike Kann, Bob Pulley, Chang Hee Lee and Matt White) with different expertise areas and external experts from the RNLI, LRF ships surveyors and safety experts, Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB), Royal Navy Command, Marine Pilots Association (MPA) Etc.

Project Learning Outcomes:

Interdisciplinary by collaboration. The project is designed to be interdisciplinary. Each member enriches the group with the skills of the related MA and research programmes. The Grand Challenge project aims at blue-sky thinking, working throughout a multi-skilled environment.

– Learn Design Thinking approach. Designing thinking is more and more becoming a skill people apply to different kinds of disciplines – from management, engineering, communication and strategic planning as a problem solving strategy. It is a skill that will add value to all student professional careers.

– New technology employed to tackle global issues. The Grand Challenge benefits from the support of tutors with expertises ranging from the Internet of Things, Interactive Design, Digital Fabrication, Engineering, Innovation strategy, Industrial Design etc. Tutors will support students through creative processes and technical challenges suggesting innovative technologies that tackle our project issues.

– Design as social means. Design changes social roles through behaviour change strategies and both of our projects have scope for this type of influence. Understanding the underlying psychology of the creative possibilities of human interactions with technologies and their place in society is one of the key skills for a successful designer.