How does EU funding support design?

26 February 2017
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EU funding for the design sectorWe explore recent developments in EU funding for the design sector, and consider future opportunities for BEDA members to influence decision-making.

Overview of the EU funding
Over 76% of the EU budget is managed in partnership with national and regional authorities through a system of "shared management", largely through five big funds – the Structural & Investment Funds. Collectively, these help to implement the Europe 2020 strategy while identifying seven investment areas. European design organisations can of course find opportunities within the national and regional programmes build to implement these funds.

However, the most important opportunities are indeed offered by funds managed directly by the EU. These are provided in the form of grants for specific projects in relation to EU policies, usually following a public announcement known as a 'call for proposals', and contracts (awarded through calls for tenders) issued by EU institutions to buy in the services, goods or works they need for their operations.

Finally a specific programme for design!
Thanks to continuous efforts of BEDA and the design community, the European Commission has gradually begun to understand that “Design is not just about the way things look, it is also about the way they work. Design creates value and contributes to competitiveness, prosperity, and well-being in Europe.” This new perception materialised in 2013 with the creation of a specific programme: The Action Plan for Design-Driven Innovation.

The Action Plan was built on the 'Design for Growth and Prosperity' report produced in 2012 by the European Design Leadership Board who was tasked to consider how links between design, innovation and competitiveness could be strengthened. Isabel Roig (BCD) and Deborah Dawton (DBA), both members of BEDA’s board at the time, were part of the Board.

The Action Plan aims to accelerate the take-up of design in innovation policies and to create the capacity and competencies needed to implement these policies. In particular, it promotes the understanding of design’s impact on innovation, design-driven innovation in industry to strengthen competitiveness, and design as a means for renewal in the public sector.

During the same period, the Commission launched the 'the European Design Innovation Initiative' which consisted of six projects with a significant participation from BEDA members.

Design as a horizontal innovation methodology

Turning to the current funding period, the report ‘Consultation on the EU Strategic Work Programme 2018-2020’ identifies as a key future trend that “the market is no longer supply-driven (...)” and that the “ability to understand customers and markets, and turn those insights into effective business models and attractive value propositions are paramount to success”. BEDA, together with other actors in the sector, has worked to prove that Design has a major role to play in tackling this challenge.

In fact, as our partner KEPA points out in its position paper, there is better understanding and integration of design-thinking as a user-centred methodology for innovation, illustrated by the increasing role of design in Horizon 2020 calls. As you know, Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020).

The Societal Challenge ‘Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies’ 2016-2017 includes a specific call on co-creation. ‘User-driven innovation’, ‘user-centred approach’, ‘co-creation’, ‘prototyping’ and other design-related concepts are also to be found more and more frequently in H2020 calls. More specifically, the ‘Co-Creation for Growth and Inclusion’ call under SC6 has facilitated the participation of design-thinking and design-promotion agencies in the EU research programme. The future calls give design organisations the opportunity to test and prove the effectiveness of design-thinking approaches.

To understand better how design is integrated in H2020, we recommend the lecture introducing Horizon 2020 and other EU funds available on the Design for Europe platform:

What does the future hold?

Efforts by BEDA and the sector are paying off and design seems to be firmly embedded in EU innovation policy and innovation units. However, it remains an unfamiliar concept for other EU services and in other EU policy and funding fields.

In the frame of the ‘Design Europe 2021’ project, BEDA is mapping the EU funding that has been invested in the design sector in recent years. The purpose of creating a timeline of EU projects on design is to identify gaps in design knowledge that future EU funding might be able to bridge.

The results of the survey will be presented to a wide range of relevant departments and services across the European Commission, including DG GROW and the EU Policy Lab. BEDA therefore has a real chance to influence the next funding period for the benefit of the design sector. A report will also be disseminated among our members so you can identify theme and partnership opportunities.

You can access the survey here:
Deadline: 10th March 2017


Contact BEDA  Koloniënstraat 56, 1000 Brussels (Belgium) t. (+32) 2 217 39 77  f. (+32) 2 217 99 72
CoFunded CEPEU

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