2 August 2007

Promoting user-centred design innovation in Ireland

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Centre for Design Innovation
The Centre for Design Innovation, which is funded by Enterprise Ireland, an agency of Ireland’s Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, aims to research and promote design thinking as a means of driving successful innovation; its goal is to make businesses more competitive and public services more effective.

The Centre, which is run by Toby Scott, previously a director of the UK Design Council and before that an advisor to the UK Government on creativity, design and innovation, takes a strong user-centred approach to innovation: “Design innovation only occurs by understanding and anticipating the needs of your users and creating successful products or services that fulfil their desires. This in turn creates competitive advantage for your organisation.”

In May 2007, Justin Knecht, programme manager at the Centre launched the Innovation by Design programme, a 15-month programme where selected companies use design research tools to better understand their end-user needs and develop these insights into new products and services.

“In June 2007, all the companies in the programme participated in a user-centred design workshop at the Centre for Design Innovation. Three to six representatives from each organisation, including most Managing Directors, learned the tools and techniques firsthand that they would apply to their own businesses. The day was facilitated by Colin Burns, a user centred design expert and former Director of IDEO London. Over a three month period, the organisations will apply these design research tools to their users before convening in September 2007 to discuss what they have learned and the opportunities they have identified to implement through September 2008. The Centre will be taking a qualitative and quantitative measurement of the programmes effect on each organisation.

To most companies this approach is completely new, so each company is partnered with a Design Associate, who provides hand-on mentoring and facilitation with the tools. As opposed to traditional consultancy, the goal of this programme is to leave a legacy of skills within the organisations beyond the end of their involvement with the programme. The mentors will spend at least 40 hours with each company over the course of the programme, which equates to a series of full-day and half-day visits.”

The team is now also working on two long-term projects that will raise the profile of design and its role in innovation.

  • Innovation Northwest” will be a yearlong festival celebrating the role of design within business, the public sector and communities across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In recent memory, few other areas have suffered so much due to social migration and the decline of traditional industries caused in part by the “troubles”. This will be an opportunity to re-brand the region as a natural home for innovation and enterprise and to demonstrate the powerful impact of design across all sectors.
  • The Centre for Creativity will provide a permanent “home” or focal point for design, innovation and creativity in Ireland. It starts from the premise that we are all innately creative but that our external environment, be that education, work or community, conspires to suppress that creativity. The Centre will provide a physical (and metaphorical) space to support businesses, communities and organisations to seek creative solutions to their problems.

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