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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

Nick is a published and funded researcher and award winning designer.

He has developed practice–based and applied approaches to social, sustainable and material design research, enterprise and situated teaching and learning.  

His collaborative projects and research consultancy have involved working with diverse organisations including Vision Aid Overseas, The Marine Conservation Society, The NHS and The UK Milk Bank, The Rural Community Council Network, Eco-Bali, The British Council and has also involved working with global industrial organisations as diverse as Philips, Vivienne Westwood, Veolia, Apple Corps, Dyson, Vodafone, ICI, The V&A, New Balance, PUMA, The V&A, Natural History Museum and the BBC and his work has been presented by invitation to The House Lords, The Department of Communities and Local Government, The Cabinet Office and The Rural Commsion.

He founded a research-based-practice (Community21.org) that consults on the co-design and co-production of products, tools and methods that support social and sustainable development in collaboration and partnership with stakeholders. This collaborative research constructivly manifests through objects, products, spaces, exhibitions, systems and services that are co-developed and used by industry, NGOs, charities, governing authorities and communities of diverse types. 


Funders as principal or co-investigator include (not exhaustive); The British Council (2019), Co-op, Building Connections (2019), Interreg (2018, 2017, 2012), The Arts and Humanities Research Council (2012, 2015 & 2016), HEFCE (2017), U+I (2016), Brighton and Hove City Council (2015, 17 & 18), The Dreamcatcher, South Africa and Utopia Foundation USA, (2016) Heritage Lottery (2015), Gulbenkian Foundation (2009), The National Lottery (2017, 2010 & 2005), The Department of Energy and Climate Change (2012), The Nominet Trust (2013), UBM (2013), Tesco (2013), Forbo (2013), REED PLC (2006,07,08), IESE (2013), The Crafts Council (2004), The Design Council (2003). This work has led to innovation and policy change in a number of partner organisations and has helped provide significant income to support the work of charities and community partners in challenging economic times.

He has delivered outputs to research census RAE 2000, REF 2008 and REF 2014 including two impact cases studies in units D34 and D36. He has fulfilled a role as Assistant Head of School for Research, Enterprise and Social Engagement, he is a research mentor and sits on school research and enterprise committees as well as having peer reviewed for grant funders (including research councils), international journals and conferences and book publishers. 

He was formerly course leader for 3D Design, co-wrote the acclaimed MA in Sustainable Design and is a PHD supervisor. He has been external examiner for Design Products at The Royal Collge of Art and MA Materials Futures at Central St Martins.



Research interests

Engaging Design and Making Research:

Designed products, spaces, services and systems pervade every part of our lives. The world is awash with ‘stuff’ that has been designed - Design has ‘made it’. However in times of ecological crisis, environmental pollution, social and political uncertainty and economic disparity design stands simultaneously as both disease and cure. 

I am interested in how designing and making contributes to positive, public persuasion, sustainable storytelling, ethical engagement, culture shift and behaviour change beyond delivering the next iteration of homogenous mobile phone. Design has agency and is being engaged as a tool and means to address issues of our time. Moreover design is about engagement – through potent, product propaganda, meaningful, material messaging and critical, craft campaigns, designers and makers are utilising the powerful language of materials, objects and products and the ubiquity of services and systems to change behaviour, provoke protest and empower people.

Material matters and making matters. Through the prism of waste we explore both the behaviour of matter and matters of behaviour. Sustainability is both a social and a material issue and waste is a result of what we think and feel as well as what we do.

Designers and makers of diverse types are dispensing with disciplinary traditions and forming new alliances, promoting civic engagement, mass participation, creating tools for accessible exploitation, activism and more virtuous circular economies. Methods of material manipulation, subversion, techno-crafting and open-sourcing. Some of our most pressing issues have re-awakened design with the critical concern and purpose that once defined it and designers and makers can turn these issues into opportunities for positive intervention, ethical economic development more symbiotically with our eco-system.

Supervisory Interests

  • Social and sustainable design (and the link between them).
  • Materials and making / materials and meaning making / material innovation.
  • The valorisation of waste (through design and making) and circular economies 
  • Making in the context of health and well-being and social empowerment
  • Research that utilses design and making methods to generate knowledge
  • The co-design and use of technology as a tool in community empowerment.

Approach to teaching

I simultaneously integrate externally funded research into teaching providing students with ‘live’ opportunities to work at the cutting edge of issues of social, economic and environmental relevance in partnership with stakeholder organisations. I teach and supervise across schools and disciplines including product design, interiors, architecture, craft and making and environment.  

Community21 as a social enterprise based within the University brokers authentic 'live' opportunities for students and collaborating companies, NGOs or communities. 

This has had a direct impact on student’s winning national and international awards, taking up leading professional roles and developing acclaimed graduate enterprises instigated by interaction with research-led student experiences. 


Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Nicholas Gant is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2017 2022

Research Output 2004 2019

Buildings as material stores and material stories

Gant, N., Baker-Brown, D. & Woodard, R., 3 Mar 2019

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibitionResearch

plastic waste
material culture
architectural design

Sole-Searching - Shoes and Stories of Waste and Want / Valorisation Framework

Gant, N. & Dean, T., 23 Sep 2019

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibitionResearch

material culture

The Well-Maker-Space

Gant, N., Hackney, F. & Hill, K., 2 Aug 2018, In : Making Futures Journal.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access

Mediating Matters

Gant, N., 8 May 2017, Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design . Chapman, J. (ed.). Routledge, p. 222-236

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterResearch


Exploring engaged spaces in community-university partnership

Davies, C., Gant, N., Hart, A., Millican, J., Wolff, D., Prosser, B. & Laing, S., 16 Nov 2016, In : Metropolitan Universities: An International Forum. 27, 3, p. 6-26 21 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access

Activities 2019 2019

The Waste Zone at FutureBuild 2019

Duncan Baker-Brown (Organiser), Nicholas Gant (Member of programme committee), Ryan Woodard (Participant), Ryan Southall (Participant)
5 Mar 20197 Mar 2019

Activity: EventsEvent