Support for the creative economy

Written evidence submitted by the Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group [SCE 054]

From APDIG (Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group) Officers: Barry Sheerman MP, Gavin Williamson MP, Baroness Janet Whitaker, Lord Michael Bichard, Lord Richard Rogers.

The APDIG exists to promote dialogue between parliamentarians, policymakers, and the design and innovation communities, in the pursuit of improved policy for the sector, and to suggest ways the sector might be able to help government in its own aims. We have a broad industry network from which we have drawn the opinions and evidence set out below. This submission is a summary of the main issues we see in relation to what government can do to support the design industry. It covers:

· Background/ overview of the industry

· Growth (and barriers to growth) in design

· Education and skills

· Government support

· Working with SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)/ micros

· Design rights/IP (Intellectual Property) for the design industry

· Government industry interaction

At the end we have also included a list of people we believe may be useful witnesses.

For more information about the group, its activities and industry members, please see our website. [1]

Background/ overview of the industry

· The UK design sector is an important wealth creator and source of innovation. It is the engine that drives the other creative industries, and other sectors beyond (manufacturing, services): either with the provision of specific design services or, more importantly for growth, particular parts of the design sector are an important source of innovation for other industries.

· When used strategically, design can support business across the economy as an effective tool to open new markets, develop products and understand user and investor needs.

· The Olympics opening ceremony demonstrated its pervasiveness into multiple arenas very well. [2]

· We also have a global reputation for excellence in design. [3]

· The disciplines we are concerned with are those which tend to provide services to other industries/sectors: product, industrial, graphic, communications and information design, interaction, service and social, digital, interiors and exhibitions, and the more technologically engaged end of the craft sector. Many agencies combine several of the above-design acts as a hub for a range of skills. Multi-disciplinary working is key to innovation.

· The sector is mainly composed of small or micro businesses. Recent research by the Big Innovation Centre found that 74% of designers are self-employed, and 64% of specialised design workers work in micro businesses. [4] It is by nature quite fragmented and varied-and it seems to be difficult for government to understand or assess this particular part of the economy with the same metrics it applies to analyse other industries.

· However getting an accurate picture is important. Design is at the source of some of the key industrial successes around us, from mobile phones, games, cars. Government ought to be actively and overtly supporting this key strategic industry.

Growth (and barriers to growth) in design

· It is, for various reasons, not in the nature or business model of design businesses to be large. They tend to be closely tied to the personality and interests/ drive of their founder/ owner, and many in the sector would argue that beyond a certain size the necessary dynamics no longer work. Indeed some of the most profitable agencies remain small their entire lives (i.e. 11-20 employees). Having said this, the UK boasts more large design agencies than anywhere else in Europe.

· However there is a challenge in supporting start-ups to grow to the next level. At the moment, to make it big, some British designers have to go abroad to find the structures to support them. There is also a need to bolster entrepreneurialism and business skills across the creative sectors including design-design businesses, in common with other creative industry business, can face problems in scaling up and growth. The easiest place to administer this training would be whilst students are still in education. But the business support required is different at different stages of business development, with start ups typically facing problems of access to finance and larger businesses requiring management and HR support for example. CPD (Continuing professional development) in the sector is fragmented and inconsistent.

· There is also a question about where design for innovation sits-normally a phase in the process of new product development/ new service development. Few design companies own the whole development arc-they are consulted as experts at a particular point in production/ delivery. However often their greatest contribution comes before that stage, in ideation. Arguably what we need for growth is more design-led businesses. At the moment what we have is a strong and very creative design sector trying to trigger innovation in, for example, a not-uniformly-innovative manufacturing sector. If design were more embedded, at a strategic level, in other businesses, that could seriously drive growth.

· For example, typical results from the Design Council's design-led coaching programme for business include better user and customer awareness, new products and increased turnover.

· For the sector at present, growth will come through increasing exports, more design agencies, and greater take-up of design input by other sectors.

· On exports-whilst this may be a way of design companies earning fees-one could also see this as our brightest innovators giving away their ideas to competitor nations. UK plc needs to get much better at working with this source of innovation.

· The small innovative design companies, that use design to bring a number of bodies of expertise together, invent new products and services etc, sometimes need to be strategically supported through to the proof-of-concept stage. As it is sometimes difficult to make the case for private investment, this is somewhere the TSB (Technology Strategy Board) could help. Moreover, there is a need for support for non-technological innovation. We would encourage the TSB to take more account of the design sector in their programme of work.

Education and skills

· As a small island nation we need to be innovators. We are concerned that at the moment schools are not focussing enough on developing imagination, creativity, innovation, collaboration (21st century skills argument). This is as much about method of teaching as content: there is no reason why this cannot be done within the current subject range. But D&T (Design and Technology) and Art & Design are critical spaces within the timetable which allow creative work, and should be kept on the curriculum. As also are music, drama, dance, etc-but the first two are particularly relevant to the design industry.

· Whilst we accept we need to see an improvement in literacy/ numeracy, this will only come about through greater student engagement in their own learning. Design can be a better process for learning-see what studio schools are practicing. Design offers a powerful alternative for student to learn with a particular focus on problem solving. Moreover, in today’s world, the rise of new technologies and digital context require different aptitudes and learning approaches, ‘3D learning’.

· Lack of coordination between government departments is an issue here-particularly differences between DfE (Department for Education) and BIS. BIS can’t drive growth without the support of education.

· To a certain extent design suffers in a similar way to manufacturing-the more academically gifted pupils tend to be steered away from creative and technical subjects like D&T and Art, seen as less rigorous than core subjects. The Ebacc has reinforced this message. Better careers guidance, and more involvement from local employers in schools, would help counter this.

· We are pleased to see government support for a National Skills Academy for Design, and for the Sorrell Foundation Saturday Art Classes.

· Our design research sector (in Higher Education Institutions) is a national asset, which isn’t always reflected due to the parameters of the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

· Impact of visa restrictions: the UK economy has benefitted from training foreign students and allowing them to ‘set up shop’ here. (Hussain Chalayan, Zaha Hadid.) Their activity has been beneficial to the UK economy, we shouldn’t undermine this.

· See comments from Janet Whitaker and Lord Bichard in a recent Lords debate on excellence in education. [5]

· See report from the Design Commission on supporting the design education system. [6]

Government support

Working with SMEs/micros

· As much of the sector we are discussing is small (majority fewer than ten employees) special attention needs to be paid to the nature and quality of the interaction between government policy and the target, as with all SMEs.

· Policies-especially those aimed at business support and stimulating growth-will fail when they meet the real world if they do not take account of typical business profiles, cultures, behaviours, etc. (This is behavioural insight as applied to businesses rather than individuals.) Most SMEs, and particularly those at the smaller end, are inherently difficult to reach. Improving the ‘touchpoints’-the ways in which businesses interact with policies in a material sense-is crucial, but unfortunately not a skillset governments central or local frequently possess.

· This is particularly pertinent to the reform of the procurement process, but we have been impressed with the recent progress made on this front. Business support policies targeted at SMEs (particularly around start-up loans, IP protection systems, taking on apprentices, R&D tax breaks, and help for export) could benefit from similar improvements.

Design rights/IP for the design industry

· The ‘proposals to change copyright law without recourse to primary legislation’ currently included in the ERR Bill are an important step towards enshrining in policy the value of design. However, practically, the change will only make a difference right now to those designer/ manufacturers of designs over 25 years old.

· So we welcome this but there is much more that needs to be done to iron out the ‘patchwork’ of IP for design identified by Hargreaves. It seems that the rigours of the European framework, combined with likely cost of legislation changes, mean that calls for far greater simplicity from the sector will not really be answered, which is unfortunate.

· The IPO have recently carried out a consultation which bears out the argument above about understanding SMEs. The process has demonstrated little understanding of the realities of the industry they are designing policies to serve. Due to restrictions in the policymaking process, suggestions for improvement are of the order of minor incremental changes, rather than wholesale revision based on the needs of the industry.

Government-industry interaction

· Unlike some other similar industries, (engineering or architecture for example) the design sector is not centrally organised, institutionally, which necessitates a different relationship to government. There is no one body regulating or defining the profession, or controlling its barriers. Anyone can call themselves a designer. There are clear historical reasons for this-but it is important to understand the landscape and dynamics of the sector, and its conduits to government. The absence of single professional accreditation, and the level of diversity in the sector, means it can be challenging to address issues afflicting the industry (i.e. barriers to growth) in a top-down way. This has an effect on how policies for the sector might be communicated/implemented.

· There remains considerable untapped potential for design to be integrated into civil service training and development of more efficient, cost-effective and user-centred services and alternative solutions to policy challenges.

· Whilst it has made great progress following the Livingstone Review on skills for the games industry, the Creative Industries Council ought to have more clout, and greater representation from the design industry. At present the Design Council is the only design voice at the table. In light of the sector’s significant economic contribution (design-intensive sectors account for approximately 7% of the economy’s GVA and 11% of its employment) [7] w e believe there is room for additional design representation at the table.

· Further, we would support Heseltine’s recommendations around government/ industry interaction (Heseltine recommendation #33: An Industry Council should be established for each formal partnership between government and a sector), and suggest that more sectorally specific councils would be more productive. Creative Industries is too broad a brush. The Automotive Council, for example, seems to work very well, and there is no question of subsuming that into a general ‘manufacturing council’.

· Encouragement from government to the industry to coalesce for the purposes of mutual interaction might be the stimulation the sector needs to organise itself better.

Suggested witnesses to the inquiry:

John Mathers, Design Council

Deborah Dawton, Design Business Association

Deyan Sudjic/ Alice Black, Design Museum

Catherine Large, Creative and Cultural Skills

Richard Green, D&T Association, and Sophie Leach, NSEAD

Su Timney, British Institute of Interior Design

Rosy Greenlees, Crafts Council

Linda Drew, Council for Higher Education in Art and Design

November 2012


[1] www.policyconnect.org.uk/apdig

[2] www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2012/aug/06/london-2012-art-design-support-policy

[3] www.nytimes.com/2012/09/27/garden/in-praise-of-british-design.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[4] http://biginnovationcentre.com/Assets/Docs/Powerpoints/UK%20design%20as%20a%20global%20industry_Slide%20pack.pdf

[5] www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/121018-0001.htm#12101827000235

[6] www.policyconnect.org.uk/apdig/design-education-inquiry

[7] www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearch-ukdesign-201207.pdf

Prepared 17th November 2012