Encouraging design-driven innovation

Sharing Experience Europe (SEE), an inter-regional project to highlight the importance of design to policy-makers, has helped to foster innovation among small and medium-sized enterprises in 11 EU Member States.

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SEE partners and policy-makers at a workshop in Cieszyn, Poland, explore how design can help to achieve innovation. SEE partners and policy-makers at a workshop in Cieszyn, Poland, explore how design can help to achieve innovation.

The greatest barrier to the better use of design in Europe is a lack of awareness and understanding of design among policy-makers. This was one of the key findings of a recent European Commission public consultation.

It was to tackle this situation that the Sharing Experience Europe (SEE) project was established as a network of 11 design organisations with the purpose of sharing knowledge and experience in order to develop new thinking, disseminate good practice, stimulate debate and influence local regional and national policies for design and innovation.

One of the project’s main aims has been to highlight the potential for design to foster innovation among small and medium-sized enterprises and to accelerate the integration of design into innovation policies and innovation programmes.

Integrating policy, innovation and design

By encouraging new research and organising workshops for policy-makers and programme managers, publishing case studies and policy recommendations, the project has assembled a substantial body of evidence to persuade public authorities to integrate design into their mainstream practices.

As part of the project, innovation policy-makers and programme managers were able to attend hands-on workshops on themes such as design policy, business support, service innovation, social innovation and sustainable development to gain practical insight into how design can achieve policy priorities.

Project manager Anna Whicher said that the outcomes of the project had been “very positive” with all 11 partner countries reporting clear impacts on policies and programmes.

As a direct result of SEE, design has become one of the Welsh Government’s priorities for innovation and forms part of the Innovation Strategy for Wales 2020. SEE has resulted in a new business support programme for the traditional manufacturing sector in Wales. The programme operated from 2009 to 2013 and provided support to 90 SMEs in Wales, created 36 jobs and resulted in 34 new services being launched.

In Estonia SEE resulted in a new business support programme called “Design Bulldozer” to enable companies to bring innovative ideas to market through design. The programme is a 20-month intensive pilot programme for 10 Estonian companies to increase their economic and export potential using design tools. The programme leveraged an investment of EUR 400 000 from Enterprise Estonia.

The SEE project was nominated as a finalist for the European Commission’s 2011 RegioStars Awards for regional development.

“Sharing Experience Europe has been successful because we have facilitated peer-learning among policy-makers from across Europe and enhanced the understanding of design as a source of innovation and competitiveness. These policy-makers have become champions for design-driven innovation in their own governments and consequently SEE can demonstrate impact in all 11 partner Member States.”

-  Anna Whicher, SEE project manager, Design Wales / Cardiff Metropolitan University

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Sharing Experience Europe (SEE) – Policy Innovation Design” amounted to EUR 1 498 490, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 1 141 425 from the INTERREG IVC European Territorial Cooperation Programme for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

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