Claudia Acklin, Head of BA Design Management, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, School of Art and Design
According to the Cox Review (2005), various internal and external factors both advance and hinder the innovation capabilities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Regarding the use of creative talent and innovation capabilities, the report mentions the following obstacles: lack of awareness and experience; lack of belief in the value of, or confidence in, the outcome; not knowing where to turn for specialized help; limited ambition or appetite for risk; and too many other pressures on the business. Regarding the use of design, the report mentions the following obstacles: cost; lack of in-house design or creative skills; lack of customer demand; manufacturing or development issues; lack of access to external designers or creative skills; regulatory issues/government bureaucracy; design is not being considered as important.On the other hand, an earlier study (Bougrain & Haudeville, 2002) comes to the conclusion that the presence of in-house design teams enables companies to absorb know-how from industrial networks of the regional innovation systems more quickly. So there is a correlation between design and the innovation capabilities of a firm.Two applied research projects in Central Switzerland aimed at introducing design and design management to 11 SMEs with little or no design experience. After assessing current use of design in each of the SMEs and introducing them to design's potential benefits, researchers worked with the companies' project teams to develop specific design strategies and innovation projects. These ranged from improving customer experiences through optimizing websites and other touch-points to developing design guidelines for the product language of such items as pressure and temperature measurement devices, or for the corporate identity of a B2B company entering the B2C market. During theory building within these two projects, we explored the contribution of design research, design leadership, and design management to a generic innovation management model. In a second step, we developed a design-driven innovation process model featuring six phases: impulse, research, development, strategy, implementation, and evolution. Our model is integrative, multidisciplinary, and permeable in order to meet the needs of SMEs for easy implementation and cost and risk reduction.
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