A new independent report by the Design Council today (Thursday 5 July) calls on the government and business to invest in the UK’s burgeoning ‘design economy’ to drive future jobs, innovation, productivity and overseas trade.
The most comprehensive report of its kind, Design Economy 2018, sets out the escalating role design firms and designers are playing in a global economy and the fourth industrial revolution.
The independent research which was funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and unveiled at the Great Exhibition of the North Business Summit reveals:
• the design economy grew by 52% between 2009-16, generating £85.2bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK in 2016, equivalent to 7% of total GVA in the UK;
• 1.69m people were employed in design in 2016, making the design economy the ninth largest employer in the UK, comparable in size to the hospitality sector;
• The number of design firms increased by 63% since 2010 to 78,000;
• designers are 29% more productive than the average UK worker;
• firms investing in design invest in R&D and are more likely to develop products, services or processes leading to innovation;
• firms in the digital design sector experienced an 85% growth in turnover between 2009 and 2016;
• design influenced exports are worth $48.4bn
The report highlights the impact of design far into the UK economy with the majority of its value (68%) of value generated by designers working in sectors such as banking, aviation and automotive.
However, the report raises concerns that investment and gains from design are becoming too concentrated in London and the south east and that larger, more successful firms, are pulling away from the rest of the economy and benefiting most from design.
To address this the charity has put forward the need for a new dedicated National Design Action Plan as part of the Industrial Strategy to ensure design sits across policies, encourages investment to drive innovation and growth, and provides clear ministerial level responsibilities to deliver it.
It is calling on support from Government to help improve the confidence of smaller UK firms to invest in design through the introduction of a new research, design and development tax credit in areas of most need; and to boost skills development by incorporating design into STEM subjects.
Launching the report today, Chief Executive of the Design Council, Sarah Weir OBE, said:
“The Design Economy 2018 shows the huge contribution design makes to the UK economy, growing at pace, driving innovation and growth for UK business.
“Despite this success, the importance of design to the UK is often misunderstood, categorised in narrow sectors and underestimated in its economic importance.
“Yet, the reality couldn’t be more different. Design is fundamental to future industry and work. Designers are developing new systems, digital experiences and product innovations that transform our lives and they are working in the highly skilled, productive, robot-proof jobs of the future.
“Design, technology and engineering go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. It is the combination of skills that is driving the fourth industrial revolution. Yet here in the UK we still under-value design and too many businesses outside London and the south east do not benefit from the growth and innovation it can deliver. This has to change.
“The world is not waiting for us to wake up to the value of design. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, Czech Republic and the UAE are all accelerating investment in design. They are the fastest growing exporters of design and outstripping UK investment at pace.
“The vast potential of design remains largely untapped in certain places in the UK. We must match the ambition of other countries and open up access to the wider benefits design brings to more UK firms and a greater diversity of people.”
Mark Titterington, Chief Executive, EngineeringUK, commented:
“Together, engineering and design make an enormous contribution to the British economy and the world we live. Many people are unaware of the extent of this contribution but this latest research, together with EngineeringUK’s 2018 State of Engineering report, highlights the fact that both are a UK success story which should be celebrated and strongly supported.
“Like engineering, it is clear that design is key to driving innovation, growth and productivity. Both fields are varied, working far beyond the perceived hard hats and Mac computers, to deliver significant value at home and in UK exports. But both sectors also face significant challenges in skills and diversity and we must work together to tackle the underrepresentation of women. The closer we bring design and engineering, equipping people with the right skills, the more likely we are to build a strong economy and society with people ready for the challenges of the future.”