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USER-FACTOR

By: Piotr Swiatek Date: 03/04/2018

A new transnational collaboration has been launched to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Atlantic region. On 20th and 21st March 2018, a team of eight partners, led by PDR International Design and Research Centre, based at Cardiff Metropolitan University, met in Edinburgh to inaugurate the USER-FACTOR project.
 
USER FACTOR is a three-year project funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme, which aims to strengthen innovation in SMEs by supporting them to use design as a tool for user-driven innovation.

Using knowledge exchange processes and service design methods, each of the partners will develop a pilot programme to support SMEs to use design and to involve users in their concept development and prototype testing.
 
Project Partners:

  • PDR, Cardiff Metropolitan University;

  • Scottish Enterprise;

  • Enterprise Ireland;

  • Galician Agency of Innovation;

  • SPI - Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação;

  • Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Brittany;

  • Department of Finance, Northern Ireland;

  • Innovalia Association.

 
SMEs are the backbone of the EU economy, providing a substantial source of jobs and economic growth. They represent 99% of all businesses in the EU, and it is estimated that over the past five years, they have created around 85% of new jobs and provided two-thirds of total private sector employment in the EU.

An improvement in SMEs' competitiveness would have a colossal impact on the economy. Therefore it is one of the 11 thematic priorities for Cohesion Policy in 2014-2020.

Design is an accessible tool of user-centred and market-driven innovation. A recent study by the Design Council (Design Council Support and Business Survival and Growth, 2017) shows that businesses supported to use design:

  • survive longer (91% of supported businesses still trading after 5 years, compared to 49% of a control group);

  • grow twice as much (supported firms grew by around 40% between 2008 and 2016, more than double that of the control group)

  • are more productive (turnover growth exceeded employment growth).

 
However, as shown by the Innobarometer 2016 study, 56% of European businesses still do not use design and a further 14% use it only for styling. Over three years, USER-FACTOR partners will develop, test and evaluate design support pilots with 200 SMEs.
 
Dr Anna Whicher, who manages USER-FACTOR, emphasises the project’s focus on long-term effects, and says, "By using design methods in our knowledge exchange process, we will build capacity within the innovation agencies so that they can offer design support beyond the funding period. Having design integrated more widely in business support, we can expect SMEs to become more profitable and grow faster thanks to development of products and services that are more desirable and sustainable."

"Having design integrated more widely in business support, we can expect SMEs to become more profitable and grow faster thanks to development of products and services that are more desirable and sustainable."

DR ANNA WHICHER
HEAD OF DESIGN POLICY, PDR

 
Follow our progress on Twitter @user_factor
For any queries, please contact the USER-FACTOR Project Officer, Piotr Swiatek, at [email protected]

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