Design in Europe’s innovation policy

DESIGN A KEY ROLE: Design is rapidly becoming an integral part of European innovation thinking, claims Jan R. Stavik, president of BEDA (Bureau of European Design Assiciations) Photo: Erland Sæteren

As part of the EU Commission’s European Year of Creativity and Innovation, BEDA (Bureau of European Design Associations) has elected to celebrate Oct. 1 as European Design Day. The main reason behind this is to highlight the importance of design as an important innovation tool for European industry.

”Design is rapidly becoming an integral part of European innovation thinking,” claimed Jan R. Stavik, president of BEDA (Bureau of European Design Assiciations), which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with more than 40 member organisations in 23 countries.

Over the past few years, BEDA has worked hard to persuade the European Commission (EC) to include design on the innovation agenda. In 2008 BEDA  had a very constructive and promising meeting with the President of the European Commission, Mr. José Manuel Barroso, which led to another important meeting; this time with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr. Günter Verheugen.

Design as a tool for innovation

The result so far has been an extensive and unique Staff Working Document from EU’s Enterprise Directorate, which was published early this summer for open consultation. The document clearly identifies design as an important tool for innovation. The open consultation generated an impressive number of responses from all over Europe, and even outside Europe.

For instance, the European Commission document reports that “the results are compelling: companies that invest in design tend to be more innovative, more profitable and grow faster than those that do not. At macro-economic level, there is a strong positive correlation between the use of design and national competitiveness.”

Boosting European competitiveness

“The European Commission sees design as crucial in bridging the gap between creativity and innovation today. We have achieved a genuine breakthrough for design in Europe, which can boost European competitiveness in the future,” added Mr. Stavik.

The BEDA president stressed that many countries in Europe have been hard hit by the credit crunch, at a time when competition from other parts of the world has continued to intensify. “Design has an important role to play in making European industry and enterprise more viable,” said Stavik.

He feels many European companies and organisations still have some way to go before they can leverage the commercial and development potential offered by design. At a political level, the amount of design know-how differs hugely in the various European countries.

“Design makes innovation more user-centred and this helps companies develop better and more competitive products and services. Tough times, pressure on prices and greater competition from other parts of the world, mean Europe needs all the advantages it can get in the battle to stay ahead.  Which is where design can play a crucial part as a vital tool for innovation,” Mr. Stavik stressed.

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