Innovate UK 20-24

Innovate UK launches four-year design strategy

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The UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, that published its new strategy to encourage and support excellent design in innovation.

The document, ‘Design in Innovation strategy, 2020-2024’, builds upon the UK’s excellence in design and pushes for more opportunities where business can realise more value by tapping into that capability and embedding design within their processes and culture.

“Yet there are barriers to progress,” says an Innovate UK spokesperson. “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 is launching a programme to 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 states it will include grant funding opportunities for human-centred design activity as well as broader initiatives, which will be assessed against criteria ‘in order to deliver value’.

Innovate UK has plans to 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”.

In the foreword to the strategy, Innovate UK executive chair Dr Ian Campbell, 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.”

The new strategy outlines four ways that good design is capable of boosting businesses and the economy, by:

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

Long-term studies by McKinsey and the Design Management Institute (DMI) are referenced, having compared the performance of businesses with strong design capability against that of their peers.

Among the outcomes, one study shows that businesses that ‘used design best’ outperformed peers by around 200% in terms of revenue and shareholder returns.

“Innovate UK is at the forefront of the government’s commitment to increase public and private investment in R&D activities,” continued Dr Campbell.

“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.”

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