Design in Action (DiA) was a £5m Art and Humanities Research Council-funded Knowledge Exchange Hub for the Creative Economy. The project also received £400k from Creative Scotland to support SMEs that utilise design as a strategy for innovation, both within and out with the creative economy

The project was led out of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at the University of Dundee. The principal partners were:

The project began in June 2012 and ended in December 2016. During that time, DiA involved hundreds of businesses in its seminars, workshops, annual Scottish Design Summits and 14 residential Chiasma, and funded 17 design-led businesses, eight of which launched, turning over £3m+ and employing 82 people.

The Hub comprised of a fully collaborative and transdisciplinary team made up of Doctoral students, Early Career Researchers and Co-Investigators from a variety of backgrounds including art and design, computer science, ethnography, entrepreneurship, digital humanities and technology. At its core was a central team that provided vital business, promotional, events and administrative support alongside a senior Directorate.

Although DIA was a research project, one of the the key differences between the Hub and more traditional arts-focused research initiatives was that the research itself occurred in almost real-time, conducted on new businesses that DiA itself helped to create.

The focus and legacy of the project was to demonstrate design as a key strategy for economic growth and innovation within industry, focusing on the value of design-led innovation across business, technology and policy. Initially delivered across the following five sectors – food, sport, rural, ICT and wellbeing, all of which were previously identified by the Scottish Government as areas with high potential growth, during its 4-year run, the project widened its focus to include legal services, digital imaging and the circular economy as a result of externally commissioned partnerships and contracts.

We developed opportunities for collaboration between SMEs, academia and design, creating a fluidity of knowledge that sought to overcome issues, including cultural and infrastructural silos, that may have restricted such co-creation in the past. This was delivered in a number of ways:

  • By curating and facilitating intensive residential design-led, knowledge exchange events, Chiasma, around a specific sectoral call, encouraging co-creation as a method of innovation;
  • By scoping current issues affecting each sector via workshops, round tables and interviews with market experts in both business and academia, tailoring each Chiasma call to ensure it was both on point and purposeful;
  • By allowing Chiasma participants the opportunity to apply for KE grant funding including further business and design support to take the resultant (and sheltered) IP to prototype and launch stage, providing a cohesive and complete pipeline process from conception to market and beyond;
  • By hosting a series of high-profile design speakers in the form of public lectures across Scotland, including cross-institutionally with our academic partners, hosting two Scottish Design Summits in May 2014 and May 2015 and participating in the first ever Dundee Design Festival in 2016;
  • By, all the while, creating and maintaining a network of designers, academics, policymakers, funding organisations and businesses; promoting to them the benefits of adopting design within their infrastructure via networking events, seminars and think pieces

To read our latest brochure, click here: DIA_BROCHURE_2015_


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