The “Safety Grand Challenge” is a collaborative research project between the Royal College of Art (RCA) School of Design, and the Lloyd's Register Foundation (LRF). The maritime industry is dominated by “grandfathering” leading to a slow-pace of adopting innovations that can reduce risk and save lives at sea. We describe how impact was achieved through collaboration and design innovations that bridged the risk gap between technologies and human behaviours. Starting from the project brief we designed a collaborative platform that supported a constructive dialogue between academia and partner organisations that aimed to foster innovative design approaches to risk and safety. The project generated an engaged community with diverse expertise that influenced the outcomes which included seven prototypes designed by a group of thirty students from across the RCA. Throughout the course of the project the network extended to other partners beyond the initial ones that included the RCA, LRF and Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The “Safety Grand Challenge” demonstrates how research can be an explorative platform that offers opportunities to analyse and design solutions to real life safety problems in mature industries through the prototypes that reflect the sophistication of the project’s collaborations. Our conclusions support how design research helped identify the value of design for safety in tackling complex issues that intertwine human, environmental and commercial views and can shape new forms of collaborative research between academia and industrial partners.