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Assessing the effectiveness of design-led innovation support for SMEs.

Gulari, Melehat Nil; Fairburn, Susan; Malins, Julian


Melehat Nil Gulari

Susan Fairburn

Julian Malins


This paper aims to understand the effectiveness of design-led methods and approaches to support small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) with innovation, and how their needs are fulfilled by support instruments through investigating the activities of 'design-led innovation centres'(DICs) that have been established in the UK. These Centres promote design practice and facilitate design driven methods to improve innovation processes within SMEs. This study examines the content, motivations, methods, procedures and general principles of these centres to find out what appears valuable and what does not seem useful within a facilitated innovation process. The data referred to in this paper were collected through a series of interviews undertaken with individuals representing DICs, SMEs, design consultants and government agencies. This paper presents several results derived from different experiences and the opinions of respondents. It was found that DICs offer a process-oriented approach to help SMEs to identify their problems and encourage them to build an innovation culture for continuous growth, whereas SMEs have a product oriented approach for pursuing innovation. This mind- set difference affects how the value is perceived and influences their communication and expectations. The findings of this study are as follows; tangible outputs such as detailed, well- tailored design briefs are considered as more effective; secondly, deeper interventions through long-term partnership help embed design in to company culture. Finally, for the effectiveness of DIC support, having established criteria to select which SMEs to work with is important. These criteria may include financial readiness, curiosity, motivation and commitment for innovation. These findings may inform innovation support programmes and help improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of their provision.


GULARI, M.N., FAIRBURN, S. and MALINS, J. 2013. Assessing the effectiveness of design-led innovation support for SMEs. In Proceedings of the 10th European academy of design conference (EAD 10): crafting the future, 17-19 April 2013, Gothenburg, Sweden. Lancaster: European Academy of Design [online]. Available from:

Conference Name 10th European academy of design conference (EAD 10): crafting the future
Conference Location Gothenburg, Sweden
Start Date Apr 17, 2013
End Date Apr 19, 2013
Acceptance Date Apr 17, 2013
Online Publication Date Apr 17, 2013
Publication Date Apr 19, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 11, 2016
Publisher EAD European Academy of Design
Keywords Design led innovation; SMEs Design mentoring
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