The Prince of Wales and design guru Sir Jony Ive have joined forces to encourage students to create high-impact, low-cost solutions to help the world transition to a sustainable future.

Students from the Royal College of Art (RCA) have been set the challenge of designing projects, under the Terra Carta Design Lab initiative, that tackle the environmental damage being done to the planet.

Charles, who has an official role with the RCA as a Royal Visitor, said: “Small ideas can have a big impact if they are supported with the right design, science and engineering and that is the key idea behind today’s Terra Carta Design Lab.

Charles, pictured releasing a turtle into the sea in Malta, has been a life-long environmentalist. Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Charles, pictured releasing a turtle into the sea in Malta, has been a life-long environmentalist (Steve Parsons/PA)

“We only have 100 days until Cop26, the big UN conference in Glasgow to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis, and we will all need to play our part, old and young, if we are to change how we look after the Earth, making it sustainable for nature, people and planet.”

The Terra Carta Design Lab has developed from Charles’s Terra Carta or Earth Charter project, an ambitious Magna Carta-style charter to encourage the private sector to safeguard the planet by adopting sustainability and invest 10 billion dollars (£7.3 billion) in “natural capital”.

Sir Jony, credited with designing some of the best-loved gadgets of the modern age, including Apple’s iPhone, iPod and iPad, designed the layout of the charter document.

The industrial, product and architectural designer, who is the RCA’s Chancellor, said of the design lab: “It’s a visionary and imaginative way of helping address the world’s increasingly urgent environmental problems.

“Often the biggest challenges demand the most ingenious, most creative thinking, which is why I’m so excited about the work that the RCA students will be able to contribute through this collaboration.

“I know that their creativity and inventiveness will develop truly powerful solutions.”

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Jony Ive was recognised with a knighthood for his work in design (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Former RCA students are already working to create solutions to environmental problems, with graduates involved in the Tyre Collective, which has developed a device to capture microplastic particles from tyres as they are emitted.

Another project is Zelp (Zero Emissions Livestock Project), which has created an innovative device worn by cattle that neutralises livestock methane exhalations at source.

More than 2,300 RCA students will be invited to collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams drawn from the college’s four schools – architecture, arts and humanities, communication, and design, and will be joined by experienced past students.

Charles’s Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) – launched last year to help accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable future – created the Terra Carta and a Natural Capital Investment Alliance.

The design lab will also receive support from Terra Carta’s private sector partners who are part of the SMI.

A shortlist of entrants will be announced during Cop26, with the final winning designs announced in 2022.