Main 2019-05-10T14:29:57+00:00

Performance in Design

Team building during the international elop* programme

Masters by Research, Relational Design


An exciting new approach to the development of products and services for the $3.7 trillion global wellness industry. The focus is on adventure, tourism and education. To exploit these opportunities, tomorrow’s wellness industry professionals need to master the art of multidisciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration at the level of systems in particular places; and to turn promising ideas into viable services and scaleable enterprises.

The Masters is people and place-centred, technology enabled, and design led. It equips students with practical skills in design, prototyping, and pilots of new products and services, and business model innovation. It is process oriented, applying agile and iterative product and service design methods. It equips participants with capability in the use of advanced information and collaboration tools and methods.

Product and service innovation for the wellness industry is best learned in real projects with actual partners. At Pontio, students of different disciplines work together in live projects together with teachers, stakeholders and experts. They are exposed to people from different cultures, nationalities, and learning styles.

6 reasons to join the programme:

the $3.7 trillion global wellness industry is growing by 10.4% a year

there are career and start-up opportunities in Adventure Experience Design, Recreation Administration, Health Service Design, Sport and Leisure Service and Product Design.

the course features business interaction, field-trips and visits to world-class companies

small group dynamics ensure direct interaction with internationally respected specialists

the unspoiled land, clean air and biodiversity; abundant water; sea; low population density and ancient cultural roots of North West Wales

a dynamic innovation ecosystem (Local firms, makers, hackers, North Wales Tech and North Wales Community)

Wellness in a Regional Context

Design Innovation For Business and Regional Development.

Adventure, Tourism, Education

The Relational Design Masters is an exciting new approach to the development of wellness-related products and services for a region. Framed by the opportunity presented by the three trillion euro wellness industry, its focus areas are adventure, tourism, and education.

Based on creative ways to connect the “what is?” with the “what if?”, you will learn how to combine a region’s social, technological and ecological assets in ways that create new livelihoods, viable services, and sustainable enterprises.

The Masters is not theoretical. It is designed to help you make a positive step-change in a live project. Your research efforts will be therefore be delivered in the form of a Business Proposal, an Exhibition, and a public Presentation to stakeholders and peers.

Our faculty and in-house experts will help you develop and tell your story effectively. Throughout the course, you will have access to our senior advisor, John Thackara – during his visits for live crits, and 1:1 on skype at other times.

The course is people and place-centred, technology-enabled, and design-led. It equips you with practical skills in design, prototyping new products and services, and business model innovation.

The Masters is based in one of Europe’s most resilient regions. North Wales enjoys unspoiled land, clean air and biodiversity; abundant water; sea; low population density – and ancient but still thriving cultural roots. The North Wales region boasts a dynamic innovation ecosystem of local firms, makers, hackers, and the North Wales Tech Community.

The course is based in Bangor University’s Pontio Centre. This thriving arts and innovation centre serves as an interface between education, research, and local social and business communities. You will have access to a range of world-class academic experts, including for example environmental science, sport science and psychology, as well as computer science and electronic engineering specialists.

Internationally, the Masters is connected in live projects with cities and anchor institutions active in Transition and Territorial Design, Health, Wellness, and Tourism. We are also involved in networks that are developing new business and governance models such as Cooperation Platforms.

 will be by Viva Voce; this takes place before the public presentation and exhibition of your work. The Viva will be before an internal examiner, external examiner, and chair. The course continues, intentionally, until August to give you time for reflection. and to prepare the next stage of your innovation research journey.

The Relational Design Masters is residential, and runs full time from September to August. The course language is English.

Course Content

The Masters in Relational Design is a research-based degree. Your research topic might be an existing project idea – perhaps inspired by an industry, government or anchor institution from your own territory – or you may define a research topic once you arrive in Bangor. The sections below outline first, our three focus areas, with examples to trigger your own thinking; and second, the four phases of the year-long course are explained in detail.

Active travel, learning journeys, and biodiversity 
tourism, are fast-growing segment in this huge global industry. Health-conscious city people are looking for soil-to-table relationships through such models as social farming, Wwoofing, Workaway, and Fibersheds. River, forest and ecosystem restoration camps are growing in popularity. In the Smart Villages movement, heritage buildings are being restored as Coworking/Coliving (CoWoLi) sites. Other legacy buildings – community colleges, chapels, pubs, libraries, regional museums, hostels, post offices, local shops – can also become networked rural hubs for visitor activities that create new livelihoods for local citizens; AirBNB Experiences is a good example.

North Wales is an alternative learning destination in its own right. Its schools and environment centres are looking for new ways to engage with new publics – from citizen science and artist residencies, to maker centres, land-based learning, and coding in the countryside.There is scope for theme-based learning journeys, too, such as the Fermentation Routes being developed in Latvia, Slovenia’s popular Honey Routes, or the Deep Time Walk app at Schumacher College in Devon. Wales’ new ecomuseum, Ecoamgueddfa, is another inspiring model to build on. Learning how to combine practical skills with new business creation is another opportunity; in Sicily, for example, citrus farmers and citizen apprentices are using biorefining as the basis of new health and nutrition products.

The spectacular natural assets of North Wales, and its network of dynamic small firms, can be the basis of innovations in a wide variety of adventure and sport activities: climbing, running, diving, kayaking, camping, mountain biking, tree climbing, zip-wiring, and more. Research partners might include global wellness brands, app developers, or public health initiatives such as the UK’s Active Forestry programme.

Four Phases

The year is divided into four phases. There will be some overlap between these, but the formal waypoints below are designed to ensure that you cover all necessary elements.

The timing and outputs of the programme align with a Tier I visa application, should there be a need for sponsorship for an international student to remain in the region, post-graduation.

Course content is for guidance purposes only and may be subject to change.



As you immerse yourself in the region, and connect to people and place, a series of short, intensive design exercises, with coaching, will acquaint you with tools and methods to be used later on. We will introduce you to our FabLab (woodwork, digital composite 3D printing, laser cutting and other advanced manufacturing equipment) and explain the creative group processes used in our CoWorking space. Through an Enterprise by Design exercise, involving undergraduate students, local actors, stakeholders and other researchers, you will practice how to design a group decision support process, and lead a multidisciplinary team, within a multi-stakeholder project.



Relational design is about making connections between social, natural and cultural assets, and building the cooperation platforms by which they can work together. In January, you will prepare a first version of your project proposal; this is presented at a formal Project Proposal Crit at the end of the month. With feedback from that Crit, you will further develop and refine your project proposal in February

Develop and Deliver


Prepare your Business Proposal, Exhibition, and Public Presentation.

Reflection and Future Planning

(July, August )

After the Viva, and the Exhibition and Public Presentation, we have allocated two months for you first, to reflect on what you have learned so far; and second,  plan the actions needed to implement your project, locally or back home. Our team will be available to provide feedback and mentoring throughout this final phase.

 Work and Career Prospects

A recent study by the Global Wellness Institute calculates that the global wellness industry is a $3.7 trillion market. Its key sectors include:

  • Beauty & Anti-Aging ($999bn)
  • Healthy Eating, Nutrition & Weight Loss ($648bn)
  • Wellness Tourism ($563bn)
  • Fitness & Mind-Body ($542bn)
  • Preventative & Personalized Medicine and Public Health ($534bn)
  • Complementary & Alternative Medicine ($199bn)
  • Wellness Lifestyle Real Estate ($119bn)
  • Spa Industry ($99bbn.)
  • Thermal/Mineral Springs ($51bn)
  • Workplace Wellness ($43bn)


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Adventure Tourism is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry, and the projected job growth for the health and wellness industries as a whole, from 2014 to 2024, is 13 percent – a faster rate of growth than most other fields.

Within this dynamic landscape of opportunities, the Masters in Relational Design course is for those who wish to:

  1. develop an existing project idea – perhaps in collaboration with an industry, government or anchor institution from your own territory;
  2. find employment in the public or private sectors in one of the sectors listed above – for example with a global wellness, travel, or hospitality brand;
  3. start a new enterprise;
  4. work in regional development or innovation policy, or in the research economy.

The Pontio Masters equips students with practical skills in design, prototyping, and pilots of new products and services, and business model innovation. It is process oriented, and applies agile and iterative product and service design methods.

As well as finding specific employment based on the specialist knowledge acquired during your research, your general employability will be enhanced by evidence of your ability to work independently, to think analytically and innovatively, and to conceptualise and question.

During your studies, you will also have the chance to develop essential professional skills such as good communication, teamwork and leadership skills and enhance your practical experience.

North West Wales and the City of Bangor

North West Wales is becoming one of Europe’s most resilient regions. Its social and ecological assets include a lot of relatively undamaged land; clean air and biodiversity; abundant water; long seashores; low population density. Its deeply-rooted language and culture are sustained by dense social networks in which land, mind and spirit continue, powerfully, to resonate. Fast growing economic sectors include biofuels, wind power, organic farming and waste management.

Wales leads the world with its Well-being of Future Generations Act. The Welsh Government’s legislation specifies seven Wellbeing Goals that must be addressed within the objectives of any project that receives support from the Welsh Government. Public bodies, and their many partners, are required to think and act long term, and to take a more joined-up approach, to economic, social and ecological development. For further information see: The Wales We Want /

The city of Bangor is cocooned by natural beauty. The oldest city in Wales is nestled between the frosted peaks of the Snowdonia National Park and the turbulent waters of the Menai Straits. It is home to the site of the UK’s oldest cathedral, and Bangor’s unique topography and cultural history are a rich context for the university’s pioneering research. This fusion of antiquity and innovation is reflected in the city’s built environment. The university’s historic Main Arts Building sits at the top of a valley next to the brand new Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre. Pontio is a physical and cultural link between the University and the city’s heart.

Arloesi Pontio Innovation (API)

In biology, the health of an ecosystem lies in the vitality of interactions between its component species. This lesson applies to business and regional development, too: When value arises from relationships, making new connections is itself a form of innovation.

Arloesi Pontio Innovation (API) is a next-generation business development lab. Our name – Pontio is a Welsh word which means “to bridge” – captures the essence of our work: we connect together the region’s most creative innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs with the aim of fostering new kinds of enterprise and livelihood. We provide an interface between knowledge creation and application.

API acts as a pollinator among a thriving ecosystem of partners in North West Wales: from maker networks and boat builders, to world-leading outdoor and land-based learning, and adventure tourism companies.

Pontio offers a campus with prototype studios, a state-of-the-art FabLab, and people and facilities to help you prototype artefacts and media. The emphasis on practical skills in design, prototyping, pilots, experiments, social investment, evaluation and iteration
. There is also a concerted focus on focus on Service Design.

Being close to its market and audience, Pontio creates new kinds of business by connecting diverse actors together. Its tools include this new relational design masters course, a fablab, and subject clusters in the university such as sport science, product design, and psychology.

The core mission of Pontio Innovation is to curate connections between business and researchers. One example has been the development of a novel medical device that combines  knowledge and skills from microwave engineering, computer aided design and traditional boat building (Creo Medical, UW Designs, Pontio Innovation). Another celebrated connection in the region is a platform that tracks he climbing equipment for maintenance and safety purposes; the system combines RFID technology, quality compliance software, and hot-forging aluminium (DMM, Papertrail).

Links With Partners and Industry

One of the ways Relational Design creates value is through focus on collaboration with small and medium sized companies, social enterprises, anchor institutions, and public sector bodies.

North Wales boasts a network of small companies. These  range from extreme sports, wellness, health and adventure tourism, to biorefining, grain and fiber networks – and a community of small but leading edge technology companies.

Current strategic business partners of API include Creo Medical, DMM, Paper Trail, Rib Ride, Zipworld, Locly. Our FabLAB (>450 Members) and the North Wales Tech Community (>500 Members) provide further access to designers, makers and engineering companies within the region

A key feature of relational design is the identification of new actors and potential partners. Our extensive national and international staff contacts mean that you will often be able to collaborate with commercial consultancies, local councils, environmental organisations (e.g. the Environment Agency, Countryside Council for Wales, RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology, many of whom have regional offices based in Bangor), and government research institutes (e.g. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) in the UK, and internationally.

The UK and other governments are pushing in diverse ways to increase citizen activity outdoors and in the countryside. In the UK,  organisations like Sport England are already developing programmes in partnership with the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA). An opportunity for Bangor could be to innovate Business Improvement Districts for Bioregions.

How to Apply

We invite applications from mid-career professionals or graduates of architecture, design, engineering and business; applicants with other backgrounds, such as ecology, or geography, are also welcome. All applicants are judged on their individual merits, plus work or business experience.

International Students

We have many years’ experience of making offers of entry based on qualifications awarded worldwide and we welcome applications from international students. Entry will require a qualification deemed to be equivalent in level to the UK bachelor degree. International applicants are normally required to provide evidence of English language proficiency. The minimum English language requirements will normally be:

  •           IELTS 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each individual component score
  •           Pearson PTE: a score of 62 (with no element lower than 58)
  •           Cambridge English Test – Advanced: 176 (with no element lower than 169)

For information and further detailed guidance on entry requirements for International Students, including the minimum English Language entry requirement, please visit the Entry Requirements by Country pages on the International Education Centre section of our website.

Contact Us

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