Future of Standards – A User Research project

Recent work by BEIS and the Better Regulations Executive under the report ‘Regulation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ has highlighted that “while often more agile than regulation, standards can also face challenges in keeping pace with technological innovation.”

The report also stressed that “It is important that standards are developed and reviewed in a timely and inclusive way, with innovators at the heart of the process.” Work by Connected Places Catapult on this subject has also identified a lack of accessibility and usability of standards is resulting in barriers to adoption by local place leaders. What does this mean for the future of standards?

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of new ways of digital working and the need for standards to be more responsive and accessible to support rapidly evolving global issues. From technology disruption, to health emergencies and the climate emergency, there is an urgent need to transform the way we make, find and use standards to ensure they are fit for challenges of the 21st century.

We believe that by making the standards market more responsive to user needs, more accessible, more usable, there is a huge opportunity to accelerate the potential impact they can bring to both the economy and society as a whole. As we look to reposition the UK in the Global Economy, there is also a great opportunity for the UK to create the most advanced standards systems in the world, to further establish UK standards on the global stage as a significant export opportunity.

The Future of Standards research project is a discovery to understand the challenges users have with standards and identify a range of possible futures for them, including considering process, human and technology interventions. This research has both an internal focus, looking at how Connected Places Catapult can champion standards and support the market with their adoption, as well as engaging with the market to understand their pain points.


The research will have two strands:

  • Internal Adoption – We are strong believers in learning by doing and recognise that for us to help the market to adopt standards, we can only do this if we have learnt how to use them effectively ourselves. Undertaking internal user research, we are learning the extent to which standards are being used at the Catapult and the barriers to their use. From this we are developing a set of actions and processes for how we could empower people to use standards more widely, to help us with our mission of championing standards. By doing this, we also hope that this will help other organisations to do the same.
  • External engagement and research – Our second piece of work is engaging with the market to talk to those using standards to understand the problems they are finding with them. From this research, we will be working with stakeholders to develop a set of futures for standards, relating to how current pain points or any market failings could be addressed around ‘Finding, Making and Using’. We will then prioritise which areas would have the most impact from an economic angle, allowing us to develop ongoing work packages to then focus on these areas with relevant stakeholders e.g. government, standards bodies, assurance bodies, SMEs etc.

The research will create digital assets to provide a vision for creating a more open, digital, human centred standards marketplace, i.e. The Future of Standards. If you would like to contribute to our research we would welcome input from industry, innovators, government and standards makers so please contact us via the emails below.

As strong believers in working in the open, a key principle of the Government Digital Service Standard, we will also be hosting a Show and Tell to feature our initial findings as part of our celebration of ‘World Standards Day’ on 14th October.

For more information, please contact:

Gavin Summerson:

Sajed Amirinia: