Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Benchmarking design for innovation policy in Europe

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posted on 2022-10-24, 15:52 authored by Anna Whicher

 In 2015, 15 of the 28 European Member States had design included in national innovation policy and design action plans were in operation in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France and Latvia. Design is an approach to problem-solving that can be applied across the private and public sectors and is becoming more relevant to policy as part of a paradigm shift towards user-centred innovation. According to the European Commission’s Action Plan for Design-driven Innovation:‘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.’    Furthermore, the European Commission encourages all European countries and regions to develop design action plans. However, the route to building effective national and regional design capacity is not clear. The rationale for this research was framed as much by a gap in theoretical knowledge among research practitioners as a gap in applied knowledge among policy practitioners for evidence-based policy-making in design.It is widely acknowledged that policy intervention for innovation is justified by systems failure theory. Innovation researchers and policy-makers have been able to quantify and thus benchmark the performance of innovation ecosystems to inform policy actions. Design researchers have also argued that policy intervention for design can be justified by systems failure theory but asserted that design is not well captured in European benchmarking exercises.  As such, this research has taken a design-led approach to developing a quantitative framework of 46 indicators to assess the performance of a country’s Design Innovation Ecosystem to inform policy-making. The framework of indicators is called the Design Policy Monitor. The findings from the Design Policy Monitor reveal that between 2012 and 2014 public expenditure on design in Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the UK increased by 34% compared to an increase of 8% for public expenditure on research and development (R&D). In a time of austerity, this funding increase is significant although overall government expenditure on R&D is more than 500 times greater than government expenditure on design.    Although the Design Policy Monitor remains   theoretical, the Design Innovation Ecosystem construct and the indicators within the framework have been jointly developed and tested with innovation policy-makers, managers in design centres and academics. It has been subject to an iterative process of refinement and peer-review as part of a consensus-building exercise with expert stakeholders. With more data on design becoming available, it would be an ambition of the investigator to review the indicators and collect new data as part of future research.   In taking a design-led approach, this research has also sought to explore and operationalise the Double Diamond process as a research framework. The Double Diamond is widely accepted as a process for design practitioners but there is only permissive consensus that the Double Diamond can also be applied as a design research framework. The concepts of design and policy are very closely intertwined; both are concerned with problem-solving and ideally, involving users in solving those problems. This body of work has sought to demonstrate that design is not only a method for user-centred research but also, by extension, a method for user-centred policy-making. This research has been conducted in parallel to leading the SEE Platform (Sharing European Experience in Design Innovation Policy), a network of 11 European partners, led by the investigator at PDR (the International Design and Research Centre) at Cardiff Metropolitan University. SEE was funded by the European Commission to the value of €1.1m between 2012 and 2015. As a result of workshops, research and advocacy the SEE partners successfully integrated design into 18 policies and 48 programmes at regional and national levels across Europe.   



  • School of Art and Design

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD

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