The Irish Government designated 2015 the Year of Irish Design (ID2015) and included ambitious targets for the initiative in its Action Plan for Jobs 2015. In addition to creating 1,800 jobs, 200 new enterprises and €10 million in design exports, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) aimed to evaluate the sector and devise a longer-term strategy for design-driven innovation in Ireland.
In January 2016, the DJEI published its ‘Policy Framework for Design in Enterprise in Ireland’ which is based on six elements:
1. Increased use of design-driven innovation in the Wider Enterprise Base
2. Building scale in the design sector
3. A step-up in the engineering design sector
4. Supporting entrepreneurship in the design sectors
5. Developing skills and talent in design
6. More females in design roles.
The development of the framework policy was informed by a series of studies. CM International and PDR were commissioned to assess the role and importance of design in Irish-based firms in non-design intensive sectors such as food, med-tech, and engineering or built environment. Firstly, we interviewed a range of company managers across different sectors and developed 12 case studies of Irish firms using design successfully. PDR also developed a survey that was completed by a cohort of 216 innovative Irish firms to understand how they perceive and use design. The key findings include:
· Design represents a core element of the development of new products and services in Ireland’s innovative companies, throughout the whole innovation process.
· Design, in Ireland’s innovative companies, is characterised by high level strategic commitment, development of internal design capacity, collaboration with external partners in the third level sector, and selective use of external design services.
· Innovative companies in Ireland tend to adopt a mature approach to design, viewing it as either key to product / service functionality or wider strategy. This contrasts with Ireland’s wider business base, which tend to be some way behind.
· Few innovative companies in Ireland report significant barriers to using design in their business. Of those barriers identified the primary barriers are the availability of time and finance, and the difficulty in making the case for design activity internally.
Building on the legacy of the ID2015 and the evidence provided by the studies, the Irish Government included the actions for design-driven innovation in the 2016 Action Plan for Jobs. We will continue to monitor the developments of the design policy in Ireland.