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Round table urges government support for design-led innovation

19 December 2014

Professor Sam Bucolo

A roundtable of manufacturing industry leaders has called for design-led innovation to be included in existing government innovation and transformation programs so that it becomes a mainstream approach for businesses as they address the challenges of a high-cost economy.

“Design-led innovation has been successfully piloted across many programs within Australia,” says Professor of Design and Innovation Sam Bucolo of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). “Now it’s time to focus on how to scale this proven approach and make it a mainstream part of advanced manufacturing.”

A round table of 19 representatives from manufacturing businesses, academia, industry associations and other interested parties has issued a statement with four central recommendations aimed at encouraging the broader uptake of design-led innovation by Australian businesses.

The round table was held under the auspices of UTS, the Australian Design Integration Network and META (the Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce of Australia). Its key recommendations call for an integrated approach to design-led innovation by:

  • Leveraging existing government programs
  • Developing a commonly and easily understood terminology
  • Investing in education in design-led innovation at all levels, including accreditation of consultant practitioners
  • Providing infrastructure and support for mentoring programs and to build a community of practice

“The growth problem that Australian manufacturing is facing is well known and documented,” a statement issued after the round table says. “Industry needs the capability and mindset to approach the problem in a different way. Design-led innovation is a model that will enable the industry to innovate differently.”

'Industry needs the capability
and mindset to approach
the problem in a different way'

Design-led innovation is based on principles commonly used in product and industrial design but which can be applied to an entire organisation and its business model.

It allows firms to rethink and grow their businesses by transforming how they provide value to customers, giving them a competitive edge and in turn enhancing performance and profitability.

Prof Bucolo and Dr Peter King of CSIRO outlined a design-led innovation framework for business in a report prepared for the Federal Government earlier in 2014.

The round table called for existing government programs to include design-led innovation, with support from government grants and funding.

Design-led innovation needed to be included in the formal education system, from school level up, the participants said.

Training in the approach should be made available to businesses via accredited schemes. “Champions” and mentors should be drawn from businesses that had applied the approach successfully.

“The overarching challenge, and priority, is how to scale design-led innovation and design thinking practices so this becomes a mainstream, integrated approach rather than a specialist initiative,” says Prof Bucolo, who is Co-Director of the Design Innovation Research Centre at UTS. The centre has in the past year hosted the Design Thinking for Export & Competitiveness Hub, an initiative of META.

“This approach is appropriate in today’s economic climate, where Australia has shifted from a low cost to a high cost nation and is being buffeted by globalisation headwinds.”


Photo: Professor Sam Bucolo   Credit - By Damien Pleming