This article proposes an alternative route towards initiating and developing formal design research projects, where design studios act as an "Initiator" and "Driver" for subsequent research collaboration. A concept for collaborative research, involving different stakeholders, will be introduced based upon the notion that results from sponsored studio projects create avenues for more formal research work, whether fundamental or applied. Building upon "Activity Theory", "Action Research" and "Practice Theory", the authors argue that practice and research are becoming more seamlessly connected through the increasing importance of context. This requires a strategic and educational perspective, where design thinking about social, technological economical, environmental and political aspects completed by collaborative learning determine scholarship as well as synergies between practice and research. Tactically, systematic planning and systems development is essential to develop new knowledge and networks, as well as anticipate future products and services. Operationally, iterative research and design prototyping addresses the systemic, emergent and real challenges of given contexts.