Policy Innovation Design


Design is gaining more and more recognition by governments across Europe as a driver of innovation. In September 2013, the European Commission published its Action Plan for Design-Driven Innovation in Europe stating that:
‘A more systematic use of design as a tool for user-centred and market-driven innovation in all sectors of the economy, complementary to R&D, would improve European competitiveness.’ (European Commission (2013) ‘Implementing an Action Plan for Design-Driven Innovation’ Commission Staff Working Document SWD(2013) 380, p.4). 
In the action plan, SEE is highlighted as good practice for advocating design to innovation policy-makers. 


Design is an approach to problem-solving that can be used across the private and public sectors to drive innovation in products, services, society and even policy-making by integrating user needs.
Research has demonstrated that design can have an impact at both the micro level of the firm and as a driver of growth at macro level; however, there are still barriers to the large-scale adoption of design into innovation programmes and policies (SEE Policy Booklet 5).
The challenge we face is convincing a government audience of the potential for design to foster innovation in small companies and deliver innovative solutions for products, services, society and the public sector.

Design in Innovation Policy

Innovation policy across Europe is undergoing a paradigm shift. Whereas previously innovation policy was technology-focused and R&D-driven, now the scope of innovation policy has broadened to include service, user-centred and social innovation. Design has a crucial role to play in this broader concept of innovation. Design can act as the bridge between technological, service, user-centred and social innovation because at its core design is a human-centred process.
The link between design and innovation is not new but it has not always been recognised at policy level. Design is a tool in the toolbox of innovation. Policy intervention in favour of design can be justified in terms of systems failure, where the role of government is to devise actions, programmes and policies aimed at stimulating the supply and demand for design to tackle failures in the way that actors and components of the system interact. In the same way that policies for innovation are based on an analysis of the national or regional innovation system, policies for design should be based on an understanding of the national or regional design system.
In the past few years, there has been a marked increase in the number of countries and regions with design included in innovation policies. In 2010, design became one of ten priorities for innovation in the European Commission policy ‘Innovation Union’: ‘Our strengths in design and creativity must be better exploited’ (European Commission, p.3). In 2012, Estonia launched their ‘National Action Plan for Design’ (read SEE bulletin 8 for an overview) and in 2013, Denmark and Finland both launched strategies for design.

Design Policy

Design policy is government intervention aimed at stimulating the supply and demand for design to tackle failures in the way that actors and components interact in the national or regional design system.

It is the European Commission’s vision that “by 2020, design is a full acknowledged, well-known, well-recognised element of innovation policy across Europe” (Peter Dröll, European Commission, speaking at the SEE conference, 29 March 2011). The SEE Platform, led by Design Wales in PDR at Cardiff Metropolitan University, will help to realise this vision.
For more information on the role of design in innovation policy read SEE Policy Booklet 5.
Download this page as a pdf here.
Copyright©2009-2017 See Project   |   Terms and Conditions