V&A Innovate: challenge resources

V&A Innovate is an annual National Schools Challenge, asking students in years 7, 8 and 9 to work in teams to design a solution to a real-world problem. The programme is based on design thinking along with human-centred design methodologies, and the resources are co-designed with teachers and professional designers.

For 2021 – 22, we're asking students to work in teams to respond to one of the three challenge themes: Renew, Connect, or Move. The resources and films on this page will help students explore the themes, prototype their ideas, and present their work to be shared with our panel of judges. Finalist teams win the chance to pitch their ideas to the judges in person at the V&A.

In Preparation

This resource will introduce you to the design process and offer guidance on what you need to consider before you begin.

Challenge themes

Inspired by objects from our new Design 1900 – Now galleries, our three themes this year are: Renew, Connect and Move. The theme toolkits below provide an introduction to each theme and suggest objects from the V&A collections to use as inspiration and starting points for student research.

How might we give objects, materials and spaces a second life?

Sitting on recycling
Watch how chairs in the V&A collections have been made from recycled materials:

Homeware made of sugarcane
Materials designer Ella Bulley explores potential future uses for sugarcane:

How might we better connect with each other?

Connecting through food
Artist Jasleen Kaur talks about how she 'hacked' the Tala Cook's Measure to cook Indian recipes. How might we use food to connect to each other?

Connecting across communities
Pali Palavathanan from digital and branding agency TEMPLO shares how they created a brand for a new charity working with asylum seekers:

How might we keep active and make the most of the outdoors?

Re-designing the bike
Curator Brendan Cormier explores how Alex Moulton redesigned the bicycle to make it more compact and portable:

Ooho! Edible Water Bottle
Curator May Rosenthal-Sloan shares how the team at Notpla are making packaging we use on the go more sustainable:

Watch more object in focus films, animations and designer inspiration in our YouTube playlist.

Explore our collections to find further inspiration from over 1.2 million objects.


Co-designed with professional designers and teachers, the following toolkit outlines how you could run V&A Innovate with your school by following three core design stages: Collect, Make, Share.

Watch the 'Innovate Journey' animation with your students to explain the Collect, Make, Share process and explore what it takes to be part of a human-centered design process.

The Collect/Make/Share toolkit includes activity ideas and printable tools for students that will support them through their V&A Innovate journey. You can use it as a recipe book of activity ideas and design approaches which can be adapted to suit the needs of your group.


Explore, research, discover and uncover everything that students need to know to help find and define a unique design challenge.


Explore and model various design possibilities informed by research. Then test and evaluate them, and develop a solution based on feedback.


Define an idea and bring it to life through visualisations and narration of the process.

Submit ideas

If you are entering the V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge, students should communicate their design ideas on two A3 sheets using different creative methods. Students can present their idea in any creative method they think best describes their design to the judges. Students looking for more structure or those with less time can use the submission template as guidance.

Take a look at example entries from previous finalists and carefully read the judging criteria and entry requirements to better understand what the judges will be looking for.

Previous Innovate submissions

To enter the V&A Innovate National Schools Challenge 2021 – 22, email your design sheets and teacher submission form to: innovate@vam.ac.uk.
Deadline 7th January 2022.