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Design Council sees opportunity in innovation strategy

The government’s innovation and research strategy provides many opportunities to boost the use of design in businesses and academia, says a report by the Design Council.

The report, “Design for Innovation”, was published on 8 December to coincide with the government’s strategy announcement. It says it aims to bring the “design elements of … strategy together in one place” to produce a framework for design-led innovation.

The report argues that both industry and academia have much to gain from becoming more aware of the potential impact of design—a statement it backs up with facts and figures.

It refers to data traced by the council showing that companies that used design “intensively” between 1994 and 2004 “outperformed” other firms “by 200 per cent through bull and bear markets”.

In addition, it says that 80 per cent of UK companies and 97 per cent of fast-growing businesses believe that design will help them stay competitive in the current economic climate.

The report highlights several initiatives in the government’s strategy and explains how they could benefit from the uptake of design know-how.

A promising commitment in the strategy, it says, is the decision to increase funding for a programme led by the Design Council, called Designing Demand, set up to help SMEs develop design competency.

It also argues that the government’s £200 million Technology and Innovation Centres—renamed “catapult centres”—could benefit from offering design-mentoring services and knowledge-transfer partnerships in which design graduates could be placed in catapult business users.

The report adds that it will help establish a panel of design experts to help integrate design for “commercialising technologies within the role and mission of the catapults”.

Another promising idea, according to the report, is the government’s focus on the “Tech City” area of Shoreditch in east London, which it says could attract investment based on UK design skills. It says it will offer design support to companies in the area and work with the UK Trade and Investment’s Tech City Investment Organisation to help overseas companies set up in the district.

The Design Council promises to work with the Arts and Humanities Research Council on research to estimate how design and innovation impact on economic performance and “social value creation”.

“This will inform existing national and European metrics leading to greater adoption of design in the innovation process,” reads the report.

Other opportunities in the strategy include the R&D tax credits and proposed innovation vouchers, which the council believes could serve as incentives for the uptake of design.

As for the government itself, the council says it is to develop a design and innovation-led “toolkit” for government departments, along with a coaching scheme for civil servants.