Publicly funded design support for small and medium manufacturers: how it might be best managed
The paper looks at how best to build competitive advantage through design-based projects in New Product Development conducted by small and medium enterprises in the manufacturing sector. Partly under the impact of IT and globalisation, the publicly funded design of a new product for a small or medium enterprise no longer involves, if it ever did, simply client, designer, state funding agency and state-funded broker of design services. It also brings together a wider group, which typically includes sub-contractors, market researchers, specialists in intellectual property and, occasionally, higher education institutions. A moot question is how best to organise these different interests to make New Product Development projects succeed. This paper is an extensive survey of the international literature and practice of state-funded design supports for small and medium manufacturers. Briefly, too, it draws lessons from 119 publicly funded projects in New Product Development and design conducted over more than 10 years by the Design Unit at De Montfort University, Leicester, a higher education institution in the UK. Both our survey and Design Unit project data suggest that, especially if they are working in the context of an active state industrial policy, higher education institutions, being specially dedicated to the embedding, communication and management of knowledge, may be particularly well suited to assisting small and medium enterprises in product design and New Product Development. In terms of their tenacity and continuity, as well as in terms of their ability to help small and medium enterprises get hold of public funds, higher education institutions may be in a good place: not just to bring individual New Product Development projects all the way to success, but also to push small and medium enterprises toward embedding design and its management within their organisations. The Design Unit’s experience also suggests that small and medium enterprises may gain from what a higher education institution can provide by way of managing and integrating, in a close-up and intimate manner, the different players and interests that usually surround New Product Development today. The hope is that, by closing the gap between design research and design practice, higher education institutions, with their mission to acquire new knowledge, can begin to make state design support for SMEs more directed and more entrepreneurial.
Citation : WOUDHUYSEN J and FORD, P. (2015) Design support for SME’s: publicly funded design support for small and medium manufacturers: how it might be best managed. In: MURATOVSKI, G. (ed.) Design for Business. 3rd ed. Sydney: Intellect, pp 62-87
ISBN : 978-1-78320-543-1
Research Group : Design and New Product Development
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Design 
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