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Global Innovation Design (MA/MSc)

Rhea Thomas

Rhea Thomas is a product designer and climate innovator passionate about tackling complex problems and creating holistic solutions that catalyse system-level change. Merging design, technology, and behavioural sciences, rooted in a human and planet-centric approach. She is entrepreneurial by nature and has ventures in the edtech and humanitarian-innovation space.

She is an advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and has been identified as a Goalkeeper by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for her contribution towards the 2030 agenda. The UNHCR recognizes her as a Young Global Champion for her work with refugees.

Selected Awards:

Calm Quilt, Semi-finalist - Mayor's entrepreneur 2022

Decibel, Winning Team - RCA Grand challenge 2022 New Economic Model for the Oceans 

Design4India Design Summit19, Nominee - The Index Project awards 2021

LearnEd, Winning Team - SwissNex NexHack Edtech hackathon 2020

Fellowships & Incubation programs:

Little Chronicles, We Innovate 2023 by Imperial Enterprise Lab London (February - April 2023)

Access to clean water in Healthcare systems, Design for Good Challenge (July 2022 - April 2023)

Climate Action TrackUnite2030 Innovation Camp 2022 New York (September 2022)

Calm Quilt, Discovery Fund by Imperial Enterprise Lab London (April - June 2022)

LearnEd, TechQuatier Impact Challenge Data Driven Sustainability 2021 Germany (March - June 2021)

LearnEd, Steelcase Open Innovation Fellowship 2021 (December 2020 - February 2021)


2021 YOUNG Youth Delegate Communique - Future of education & work policy recommendations, by Bridging the gap ventures

India by Design: Perspectives, Trends & Practices - National design report 2019, published by The National Association of Software and Service, (NASSCOM) India


UNHCR Young Champion Network for Refugees

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers 2030

Unite2030 Changemaker (Youth Delegate program 2020 | Cohort 3)

Relevant experience:

Co-Founder, LearnEd (October 2020 - September 2021)

Product Experience Designer, Design4India An Initiative by NASSCOM & Facebook (June 2018 - April 2020)


MA/MSc Global Innovation Design - Royal College of Art and Imperial College London (September 2021 - July 2023)

Exchange Partners: Keio University, Japan, and Pratt Institute, USA

B.A Industrial Product Design - MAEERs MIT Institute of Design, Pune (July 2014 - June 2018)

Rhea Thomas, Designer & Climate Innovator

I’m Rhea Thomas, a transdisciplinary designer. I care deeply about leading with optimism, compassion and curiosity. These core values enable me to design ecosystems, strategies, and products that are human and planet- centric in order to reimagine a better future. I believe it is imperative for designers, innovators, and creators to consider their impact on the world.

My work is a response to the real-world problems we see in our society. Working and living across India, London, Japan, and New York has helped me connect the dots in this complex world and has given me a global perspective on the social design challenges that I address. It has also sensitized me toward local cultures and communities, enabling me to work collaboratively with them. 

During my time at GID, I have had the opportunity to work on various projects and develop new skills ranging from AR, VR, and biomaterials. The global nature of GID has given me the chance to co-create with several communities - From South Africa for access to clean water in healthcare systems to Syria for alleviating trauma in children of war and refugees and in New York to co-design an Installation with 10 -15-year-old children for the COP 28 children & youth pavilion.

As part of the RCA Showcase, I am sharing projects that I have enjoyed working on:

  • Seasprout is a biomaterial innovation that has a community driven design approach creating a circular biosystem
  • Shrimpak is a biomaterial innovation that tackles plastic pollution
  • Decibel is a nature-based solution that tackles sound pollution in the ocean
  • Aria is a wearable jewellery inspired by nature

Feel free to reach out to me to know more about my work, to collaborate on projects, or to just chat about a happier world.

An image presenting the Seasprout material in different forms
Phases of work
Overview of the phases of work for seasprout
Prawn shells - powdered prawn shells and biomaterial made from prawn shells
Prawn shells - powdered prawn shells and biomaterial made from the prawn shells.
Material exploration using the prawn shells.
Material exploration using the prawn shells.
Circular system
Sustainable impact

In the UK alone, up to half a billion plastic plant pots are sent to landfills or incineration plants every year, exacerbating the plastic crisis. Meanwhile, over 8 million tonnes of prawn shells are discarded every year.

Seasprout is a bio-material innovation that utilizes shrimp shell waste from the frozen seafood industry to make bio-degradable bedding trays and pots for the horticulture and agriculture industry. It phases out HDPE, by introducing a material that is earth-friendly. These products not only provide a sustainable solution but also degrades over time, enriching the soil with natural nutrients that benefit plant growth. Seasprout operates within a circular biosystem, exemplifying the principles of a circular economy and sustainability factoring in the social environmental and economic impacts.This closed-loop approach minimizes waste, maximizes resource efficiency, and promotes a regenerative system where waste is repurposed into valuable resources while empowering the local fishing community.

Seasprout's impact goes far beyond the product itself. It represents a transformative shift towards sustainable practices, inspiring others to reconsider traditional methods and embrace innovative solutions. Seasprout aims to drive positive change, contributing to a greener, more sustainable future for the horticulture, agriculture, seafood industry and beyond.

Cover image of Shrimpak
Shrimp & Crab waste to biomaterial
Biomaterial designed
Material test
Material Application - Takeaway boxes

Shrimpak is an alternative to single-use food packaging made from shrimp and crab shell waste in the seafood industry.

Every day, 8 million pieces of plastic waste find their way into the ocean. Of which 44% of the plastic is linked to takeout food packaging. Plastic contaminants such as food containers, wrappers, single-use bags, and plastic bottles are the most widespread pollutants.

On the other hand every year, 6 million to 8 million tonnes of waste crab, shrimp, and lobster shells are produced globally, by the seafood industry. In developing countries, shell waste is often dumped in landfills or the sea.

Shrimpak replaces single-use plastic with a material made from chitosan which is extracted from the exoskeleton of shrimp and crabs. Shrimpak is a biodegradable, shock-absorbent, lightweight, and biocompatible material making it suitable for food packaging. It can be molded into food containers, cups, packing peanuts, and other shapes.

Once dried into form, the material can be turned back into the original bioplastic solution, making it infinitely recyclable. Alternatively, if the package is thrown away and lands in a landfill or ocean. It starts breaking down within a few weeks, unlike plastic which takes years to break down. It can also be poured into the soil in its liquid form as a natural, non-polluting fertilizer.

Designed at Pratt Institute, New York.

Under the guidance of Jeanne Pfordresher & Mary Lempres.

Decibel Cover

Decibel is a nature-based solution tackling sound pollution, an invisible pollutant in the ocean.

Sound pollution is an overlooked catastrophe, marine animals depend on their hearing to survive. But sound levels in the oceans are constantly rising due to human activities. Decibel is inspired by the Maze-like landscaping that deflects sound, modular partitioning system, and living interlocking barrier.

The solution is a modular hexagonal seastone oyster pods structure on which kelp is grown acting as a natural sound barrier between shipping highways while creating a regenerative marine permaculture system paving way for a circular economy system where oysters, fish, and kelp can be harvested.

To make the invisible pollutant visible we created an immersive experience using VR for decision-makers, and UN bodies to comprehend the magnitude of sound pollution in the oceans and understand how decibel would mitigate sound pollution from ship propellers when implemented

In collaboration with: Haochen ZhouKhanh NguyenRichard Newman, and Yihan Dong

Winning team of the Royal College of Art Grand Challenge 2022: New Economic Model for the Ocean In partnership with Logitech and support from Extreme E.

Cover Aria
Details of the product

Aria is a collection of jewellery that flutters with your heartbeat.

Aria, an extraordinary jewelry collection that defies the static nature of traditional accessories by embracing the perpetual movement found in nature. Aria offers a dynamic and enchanting element to personal expression.

Inspired by the mesmerizing motions of the natural world, Aria captures the delicate sway of leaves, the graceful flapping of butterfly wings, the exquisite blooming of flowers, and even the subtle rise and fall of the chest during breathing. These enchanting phenomena serve as the foundation for Aria's captivating jewelry pieces.

Each piece of jewelry is equipped with meticulously crafted electromagnet coils, which act as the catalyst for the jewelry's stunning movement. These coils are calibrated to synchronize with the wearer's pulse and breathing patterns, enabling the jewelry to respond seamlessly to their body's natural rhythms. When adorned, Aria becomes an extension of the wearer, a wearable art piece that dances in perfect harmony with their heartbeat and breath. Every pulse and every inhalation sets the jewelry in motion, creating a captivating spectacle that enthralls both the wearer and those fortunate enough to witness it.

By infusing movement into the realm of personal expression, Aria revolutionizes the concept of jewelry, infusing it with an interactive and ever-evolving quality. It encourages individuals to embrace their own bodily rhythms, forging a deeper connection with themselves and the world around them.

In collaboration with Summer Chen

Exhibited at the Imperial College London spring show 2022