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Design for Innovation in Wales:
Industry, Services and Society

    The world is changing faster than ever. And there are unprecedented crises; economic, social, health and environmental. As a creative and dynamic nation, we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of meeting those challenges in Wales.

But how? Through innovation driven by design.

Design is a strategic discipline that can bring about positive and practical changes to our lives. By looking at things differently, design solves problems and transforms ideas into something tangible and viable. In the Council of the EU, innovation is recognised as the means to address a whole range of challenges: ‘The Council invites the Commission and Member States to give special attention to design considering its leverage effect on innovation performance, taking into account economic, social and environmental sustainability aspects and stresses the need to establish platforms for exchanging knowledge, experiences and best practices on design issues as a competitive advantage for European companies.’[1] As this policy remit expands, design proves it can realise ideas and add value to all aspects of our society.

If Wales is to embrace design, it is imperative to engage with this EU policy.

The potential of design does not stop there. It can convert social concerns into economic opportunities. This can be seen across our three areas of focus - industry, services and social innovation:

  • In industry, design enables companies to develop competitive products and services that respond to consumer expectations and also promote a culture of sustainability and innovation. This is evident in Sir James Dyson’s ‘Ingenious Britain Report’, commissioned by the Conservatives, which makes proposals to boost British industry and technology.
  • Public services can become sustainable through design by taking a user-centred approach, designing in better value, greater efficiency and accessibility.
  • Social innovation is where a design process is applied to engage people in exploring local challenges. Design allows people to participate and implement solutions to improve social cohesion.

Design is already happening in Wales and accounts for the greatest proportion (22%) of Wales’s creative industries (this is mirrored in the UK economy too). The creative and cultural industries contribute £465M to the Welsh economy, of which 36% comes from design.[2]

But this does not go far enough. Despite such encouraging figures, businesses in Wales take limited advantage of design; only 17% use product and industrial design in their business.[3] In the public sector design is used mainly for communication; its strategic potential to develop efficient systems, services, products and process is ignored.

Many countries across the globe have embraced design at policy level. Wales needs to step up to the mark and harness the power of design for innovation. If our nation is to create user-centred services, embrace social innovation and excel as a competitive economy, the Welsh Assembly Government must act now.


    Recommendations for Action

How can we secure the vision of a design-led Wales? Our tangible and realistic recommendations are as follows:

Immediate actions
Form a Welsh Assembly Government cross-party group for design and innovation, in order to:

  • Create a platform and bring together everyone with an interest
  • Map design stakeholders across Wales.

The group's key responsibilities

  • Develop a vision of design in Wales
  • Drive design into public procurement
  • Ensure design is included in future innovation policies
  • Co-ordinate an annual design summit.

Long-term goals

  • Engage the wider community with design
  • Develop an export programme to sell Welsh design in Wales and abroad
  • Realise the Welsh design sector’s potential and raise their capability to address the skills gap
  • Pilot design-led schemes in public services.

    [1]Conclusions on Creating an Innovative Europe. Council of the European Union, 26 May 2010, p. 4.

[2] Creative and Cultural Industries Economic and Demographic Footprint. Creative and Cultural Skills, 2008 (Available from: http://www.ccskills.org.uk/Industrystrategies/Industryresearch/tabid/600/Default.aspx).

[3] The Value of Design Factfinder Report. Design Council, 2007, p. 97
    Design Wales 2010