Design Policy Monitor


Since 2010, when design was included in European innovation policy for the first time (Innovation Union), the design policy landscape in Europe has transformed. Not only is there an Action Plan for Design-driven Innovation at the European level but a number of European Member States, including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France and Latvia, have also developed design action plans. In addition, 15 of the 28 European Member States (EUMS) have design explicitly included in national innovation policy. Furthermore, there is a growing awareness of design as factor for innovation at regional and local levels with a number of regions integrating design into policy, including Flanders (Belgium), South Bohemia (Czech Republic), Central Finland, Central Macedonia (Greece) and Wales (UK) among others as well as an increasing number of design managers in local public authorities, including, for example, Lahti (Finland), St Etienne (France), Dublin (Ireland), Katowice (Poland) and Kent, Monmouth and Shropshire (UK).

The SEE Design Policy Monitor 2015, draws on the experiences of SEE to examine future trends in design policies and programmes. In the build up to 2020, we anticipate a number of trends for design driven innovation in Europe:

  • Policy-makers across Europe will integrate design more holistically within innovation policies as well as smart specialisation strategies and some will develop design action plans.
  • Governments will seek to build design capabilities with small and medium-sized enterprises by integrating design as an eligible cost within innovation programmes such as mentoring, subsidy, tax credit and export schemes as well as developing dedicated design support programmes.
  • Governments will develop their internal capacities for design-driven innovation by training staff in design methods, employing design managers and establishing multi-disciplinary innovation units.
  • Public sector administrators will recognise design as an enabler of innovation in multiple policy domains such health, social, environmental, digital and transport policy and also as a method for inclusive policy-making.

The Design Policy Monitor examines public and private expenditure on design and R&D in Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the UK. As far as it is possible to calculate, it appears that the UK is unique in Europe as UK companies spend more on design – 2.63% of GDP than on R&D 0.99%; whereas in Denmark and Finland, companies spend significantly less on design – 0.38% and 0.21% of GDP than on R&D – 1.98% and 2.51% Although business expenditure on R&D is comparatively low in the UK (0.99%) relative to Denmark (1.98%) and Finland (2.51%), business expenditure on design is particularly high (2.63%) against Denmark (0.38%) and Finland (0.21%). Encouraging private sector investment in R&D is a cornerstone of innovation policy yet no European country has set a target for investment in design despite the mounting evidenceof design’s contribution to competitiveness.


Public and business expenditure on design and R&D in actual terms in Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the UK


SEE Platform developed, tested and validated a framework for policy-makers to understand the performance of a nation or region’s design system. Design-driven innovation ecosystems or ‘Design Innovation Ecosystems’ is a policy construct that helps developing design-driven innovation policies. By transferring establish theory on innovation ecosystems to design, design stakeholders can map their Design Innovation Ecosystems to tackle the gaps and capitalise on the strengths.

The radar diagram of below, seeks to provide insight into the performance of ’Design Users’ in the Design Innovation Ecosystems of Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the UK by normalising performance scores. The country which performed best for a particular indicator (for example, Estonian public expenditure on design over GDP is the largest), received a score of 4 and the country that performed second best for that indicator received a score of 3 and so on. This diagram demonstrates that the Danish, Estonian, Finnish and UK Design Innovation Ecosystems are performing well relative to each other. For one Design Innovation Ecosystem to be consistently better than the others, it would appear on the outer ring of the radar diagram but none of the four countries are performing consistently better than the other countries.


National Design System Performance: Design Users in Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the UK



The SEE Design Policy Monitor presents as well a snapshot of the provision of design support, promotion, centres and policy in the 28 EU MS providing an overview of the state of state of explicit and tacit design policies. In 2014, 15 EUMS had design explicitly included in national policy either as part of innovation policy or as a dedicated design action plan. The findings also revealed that design promotion activities exist in all 28 EUMS, design support programmes exist in 12 EU MS and 18 countries have a design centre. Although some countries do not have design formally integrated into national policy, they can be said to have a tacit design policy because they have design centres delivering design support, examples of these countries include Austria, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands. There are a growing number of design action plans: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France and Latvia had a dedicated design policy in 2014. There is also a trend in developing multidisciplinary innovation units, Policy Labs,within central government that often use design methods to engage citizens in decision-making. For example, in 2014, the Policy Lab was established in the UK Cabinet Office and the Experio Lab was established in Sweden following in the footsteps of initiatives like MindLab in Denmark and Helsinki Design Lab (2009-2013). Similar units have been established in a number regional governments including Design Silesia in Poland, the Northern Ireland Innovation Lab and the Creativity Team in Scotland as well as in city and county councils such as Lahti (Finland), St Etienne (France), Dublin (Ireland), Barcelona (Spain) and Kent, Shropshire and Monmouth (UK).



Design Policy Monitor 2015


The SEE Design Policy Monitor 2015, draws on the experiences of SEE to examine future trends in design policies and programmes.


Design Policy Monitor 2012


The Design Policy Monitor 2012 collates existing statistics on the performance of the SEE partners’ national or regional design systems in order to provide input for evidence-based policy-making. 


Copyright©2009-2017 See Project   |   Terms and Conditions