The recently published design strategy from Innovate UK seeks to encourage and support excellent design in innovation.

The ‘Design in Innovation strategy, 2020-2024’ recognises that the UK is a world-leader in design excellence and there are great opportunities for business to realise more value by tapping into that capability, embedding design within their processes and using it as a strategic differentiator.  

It is not good enough for an idea to be technically feasible, it must also be desirable and fit-for-purpose. To address this, Innovate UK will launch a programme of investment over the next 4 years that will meet business need under four themes:

  •       Making the case for investment in design
  •       Reducing the cost of entry for those new to design
  •       Helping businesses access the best design talent
  •       Helping businesses maximise the value contribution of design

The programme will include grant funding opportunities for human-centred design activity as well as broader initiatives, which will be assessed against success criteria in order to deliver value. Innovate UK will work with industry partners and across government to fully embed design in innovation, to ensure the UK’s world-class designers maximise their contribution to sustainable economic growth.

KTN has been central to the delivery of the current design strategy and looks forward to continuing to support Innovate UK realise design aspirations across the UK economy. The strategy outlines four ways that good design boosts businesses and the economy, by:

  •       Delivering more valuable outcomes
  •       Reducing innovation risk
  •       Accelerating scale-up
  •       Improving business performance

Studies by McKinsey and the Design Management Institute (DMI) have compared the performance of businesses with strong design capability against that of their peers. The results show that businesses that used design best, outperformed their peers by around 200% in terms of revenue and shareholder returns.

Innovation is not only about having ideas, it is about creating value from those ideas. If the economic, social and environmental benefits are to be realised, then it is essential that those ideas are readily adopted and used by people. Technology enables supply, but people determine demand. Successful innovation requires both to be aligned, and it is here that great design, as the interface between people and technology, is crucial.

The impact of recent Innovate UK design commitments, for instance through the Design Foundations programme, has generated an impressive portfolio of companies able to mobilise and scale their R&D opportunities in the market. KTN has been gathering insights from companies funded by this programme to help inform future directions and decisions. 

In the foreword to the strategy, Dr Ian Campbell, Executive Chair, Innovate UK writes:

“Over the last five years, our programmes of investment and support for design have produced impressive results. However, more can be done – despite the UK’s enormous strengths in design, there remains a significant opportunity for more businesses to exploit that potential: recognising, adopting and investing in the best quality design to innovate more effectively, compete successfully and grow faster.

“As this strategy demonstrates, for those businesses and organisations that truly embed design into their innovation processes and strategies, the potential benefits are considerable.”

Innovate UK is at the forefront of the government’s commitment to increase public and private investment in R&D activities. By ensuring that this is integrated with design, the likelihood of success will increase, boosting the return on our own investments and helping to bring wider, long-term outcomes for the whole country. In short, design creates value.”

Clearly challenges lie ahead for the UK businesses but with the right design support, navigating that journey may become easier and lead to more productive results. 

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