V&A National Schools Challenge

Held annually, students in years 7, 8 and 9 are given the opportunity to experience the power of design and technology in solving some of the world's biggest problems.

Entries are now closed for the V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge 2019/2020. We will be announcing the winners and details for 2020/2021 soon. Register to be kept up-to-date with the latest news by email.

In teams of 4, 5 or 6, students are invited to choose from three contextual challenges inspired by our collections and exhibitions that ask critical questions about the issues shaping our world:

Within their chosen context, student teams discover their own real and relevant problem to solve – at home, in school, or locally – leading to a new design solution.

Entries are digitally submitted and judged by a panel of industry experts. Finalists will be invited to the annual Innovate Pitching and Awards day at the museum and will be in with a chance of winning prizes for their school.

Whether you're a teacher of D&T, Art & Design, Sciences, Geography, Citizenship, or something else entirely, you could run Innovate in your class to show the power of design in a fast-changing world. Innovate could be run over a term within D&T, or over a day with a STEAM project, or over a few weeks with an extra-curricular club.

Our resources provide guidance on how to deliver Innovate, including an overall project structure and inspiration for each contextual challenge.

key information

key information

Deadline for entries: 13 December 2019

Finalist schools contacted: 13 January 2020

Finalists attend Innovate Pitching and Awards: 2 March 2020


  • All students who enter receive a certificate for taking part
  • Shortlisted entries are judged by a panel of industry experts
  • Finalists are invited to attend our annual Innovate Pitching and Awards, a national celebration of excellence in Design & Technology education
  • Prizes, including plaques, trophies and workshops with designers, are awarded to winning teams of students and teachers


Our judging panel for 2019/2020 is:

Phoebe English, Fashion designer

Monica Galetti, Chef Proprietor, Mere Restaurant

Paul Williams, Chief Operations Officer, Brompton Bicycle

How to enter

  • Students in years 7, 8 and 9 at state-funded secondary schools can take part
  • Students enter in teams of four, five or six
    Before submitting, read our judging criteria and entry requirements:


Share your new design solution with us. Email innovate@vam.ac.uk to request a Teacher Submission Form to include with your entries to the 2019 Innovate National Schools Challenge. Deadline 13 December 2019.

Why innovate?

Why innovate?

Innovate supports

  • Delivery of D&T curriculum and scaffolds towards the NEA component of the D&T GCSE. The broad themes will encourage students to explore the real-world role of design in tackling the impact of global trends and will model the NEA of the GCSE spec with its emphasis on design thinking, problem solving and iteration
  • Inspiration for STEAM and cross-curricular teaching
  • Artsmark and Arts Award
  • Celebrating and advocating for the role of design in your school

Benefits of students taking part include

  • Developing interdisciplinary problem-solving skills, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication
  • Learning about the work of future looking designers and innovators
  • Discovering potential careers and new technologies
  • Engaging with some of the most fascinating objects in our collections
  • Exploring different design processes and applying them to real life
  • Getting showcased in front of industry experts, peers and influencers
  • Earning the chance to win awards and prizes for their school