Design management on EU level

As you may have heard, last year was the European year of Creativity and Innovation. Shortly after New Year’s Eve it might be a good time to look back (and out) which role innovation, design and design management plays on EU level.

There have been several initiatives by the European Commission to support and research on design and design management in recent years.1 & 2 However an European-wide policy to support design was never planned, due to the inconsistency and differences of national design policies.3 Against this background it is interesting to see that there are plans to include design into the EU innovation policy.

To find out which role design could play in this policy the Commission hold a public consultation on the basis of their publication “Design as a driver of user-centered innovation” and published the Mini study “Design as a tool for innovation”.

I believe that giving design and design management more importance in European policies and classifications has several benefits for us as design managers:

  1. Better balance between supply and demand side
    Innovation policies have been excessively focused on the supply of technologies and neglected the demand side (the user). A better balance will direct funding and research initiatives towards user-centered innovation, which will give more importance to design and design management.
  2. Increased knowledge sharing, design education & research
    Design has the potential to work as an innovation enabler and driver, making design an integral part of the innovation policy helps to catch up with recent developments in design for policy making, design support and education across different European countries. Collaboration in education, training, research and development of support mechanism for design-driven innovation are necessary steps to break down barriers to use design as a tool for innovation.
  3. Better measures and benchmarking
    A better understanding of the impact of design in R&D and innovation helps to develop better measures and therefore helps to bring design higher on the corporate agenda by uncovering the hidden value of design.
  4. Better driver of competition and increased export of design
    Design complements more traditional innovation activities (e.g. technological research), but has also the potential to drive competition. With less capital costs and shorter pay-back periods, design has various advantages compared to traditional innovation activities, especially in economic climates where innovation resources are rare.

Therefore I claim that we need to think about design management not only in the organizational context, but with a larger intercorporate perspective, in which we shape pro-actively the design management profession. Last year we missed an opportunity but its not to late to take the chance.

1 The highest awareness in the design management community got the Pro Inno Europe initiative (the EU’s “focal point for innovation policy analysis, learning and development”), because it funded the ADMIRE (Award for Design Management Innovating and Reinforcing Enterprises) project. The goal of the project was to stimulate companies to invest in design management and use it as a key driver for innovation and competiveness (e.g. through the Design Management Award, the DME library and the DME self-assessment tool).
2 The incorporation of design management in todays business practice by InHolland and InnoActions. An analysis of design management practice in Europe, 2009.
3 In 2004, a representative of the EU intimated that there will never be a design policy at European level pursued by the EU, until the national policies become more effective and consistent across Europe (January 2004, on the APCI conference in Paris)