Accessibility links


Each RSA brief is judged in person by a different panel of designers, industry experts and social innovators in two stages: anonymous shortlisting, followed by interviews with finalists.

judging session SDA


  • Judges view all the entries submitted for a brief and agree a shortlist to interview.

  • Entries with a majority of votes are laid out for discussion by the whole jury until the shortlist is agreed.

  • The shortlist is usually 6-8 entries, but can be as many as 10 or as few as 5.

  • The RSA team contacts all competition entrants to let them know whether or not they have been shortlisted.


  • Shortlisted candidates are invited to a 25 minute interview at the RSA.

  • Entrants are asked to spend 5 minutes presenting their project to the jury and then answer questions about their work and career aspirations.

  • Once all interviews have been completed, the panel deliberates and selects winners.

  • Students can also be Highly Commended or Commended. Reaching the final shortlist is seen as an achievement in itself, and can enhance their CVs.


The award for the winning submission/s varies from brief to brief, depending on what sponsorship is available. Some briefs carry cash awards, while others carry a mixture of cash awards and paid industry placement awards. These are distributed at the jury's discretion.  

Submission criteria

Your entry should demonstrate a design thinking approach to the brief and clearly communicate the following principles:

  • Social and environmental impact: how does your proposal make a positive difference for people and/or the natural world in your chosen context? How is your approach empowering people? Have you considered effective use of resources including materials and processes? 
  • Rigorous research and compelling insights: how have you combined your own first-hand research with a review of existing research and wider trends? How can you show a clear path between your key insights and your proposal? How are your insights grounded in people's needs and desires? How did you get feedback and incorporate new ideas through prototyping and iterating?
  • Systems thinking: what's the bigger picture? How have you considered the root causes of the challenge you’re exploring? How does your idea connect to a wider set of issues? What might be some unintended consequences of your proposal?
  • Viability: have you considered potential models for how your proposal could work in the real world? How could it be funded and sustained financially? What are potential barriers? How would you measure success? 
  • Creativity and innovation: how is your idea different from existing interventions? Are there unexpected or surprising elements in your proposal?
sponsors and partners