Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Design Thinking Research Program

Main content start

The HPI-Stanford Design Thinking Research Program applies rigorous academic methods to understand why and how Design Thinking innovation succeeds and fails. Since 2008, the Design Thinking Research Program has supported over 100 research projects and has published their contributions across over ten annual volumes.

Program Vision

The HPI – Stanford Design Thinking Research Program provides an opportunity for multidisciplinary research teams at Stanford University to scientifically investigate the phenomena of innovation in a holistic way. Researchers are encouraged to develop ambitious, long-term explorations related to the innovation method of Design Thinking across technical, business, and human aspects. The Program seeks to engage multidisciplinary research teams with divergent backgrounds in science, engineering, design, and the humanities.

The Program applies rigorous academic methods to understand the scientific basis for why and how the innovation paradigm of Design Thinking succeeds and fails. For instance, researchers in the program have studied the complex interaction between members of multi-disciplinary teams challenged to deliver design innovations. The need for creative collaboration across spatial, temporal, and cultural boundaries is an important feature of the domain. In the context of disciplinary diversity, they explore how Design Thinking methods mesh with traditional engineering and management approaches, and specifically, why the structure of successful design teams substantially differs from traditional corporate structures.

The overall goal of the program is to discover metrics that determine the success of challenges approached with Design Thinking methods.

Program Priorities

Project proposals that set new research priorities for the emergent knowledge domain of Design Thinking are favorably funded. Furthermore, in this context, field studies in real business environments are considered especially important to assess the impact and/or needed transformations of Design Thinking in organizations. Project selection is also based on intellectual merit and evidence of open collaboration. Proposed research collaborations between Stanford University and the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany are especially encouraged.

Special interest lies in the following points of view and guiding questions:

  • What are people really THINKING and DOING when they are engaged in creative design innovation? How can new frameworks, tools, systems, and methods augment, capture, and reuse successful practices?
  • What is the IMPACT of Design Thinking on human, business, and technology performance? How do the tools, systems, and methods really work to create the right innovation at the right time? How do they fail?

Program Eligibility

The Principal Investigator (PI) for proposals must be a tenure line professor at Stanford University or the Hasso Plattner Institute They must be authorized to supervise PhD candidates in the capacity of primary dissertation advisor. PI requirements are defined by National Science Foundation (USA) criteria.

About the Program

This program is financed and generously supported by the Hasso Plattner Trust, and is jointly executed between the Stanford Center for Design Research and the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering in Potsdam Germany.

Grants have been awarded in the range of $50,000-$150,000 per year. Approximately twelve awards total are expected, with six awards per institution.  Proposal teams that receive Program funds are expected to participate in semi-annual Design Thinking Research Program conferences to be held in both Palo Alto, CA, and Potsdam, Germany.

Projects conclude in the authoring and submission of a book chapter for the Design Thinking Research series co-edited by Plattner, Meinel and Leifer, and published by Springer International.


Each year the Program Committee of the Design Thinking Research Program selects the most interesting and promising projects to be funded. Multidisciplinary research teams from Stanford University and the Hasso Plattner Institute work on diverse topics concerned with Design Thinking in order to investigate the phenomena of innovation in its many holistic dimensions.

Descriptions of awarded DTRP projects, from 2008 to today, can be found here.

Call for Proposals

The deadline for submission is July 1 of each annual year. Proposals are submitted by a single email with PDF file to Program coordinators at both HPI and Stanford.