Test case shows that R&D spending pays off in the end

Nissan Design Europe’s test case over tax relief on elements of the design process should raise a cheer in design. The car company’s success in securing what director David Godber estimates as ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds a year’ sets a precedent for others to follow.

It is ironic that a Japanese company should lead the way in identifying what UK designers have long been entitled to. But so be it. Nissan has proved to be a design champion and a strong supporter of London as a cultural hub, choosing the UK capital as its European creative base.

One thing that may be overlooked by consultancies and clients though, in their zeal to cash in, is the strong position the move affords design in the UK economy. It gives creatives the encouragement they need to push innovation, without being penalised for their efforts. It could also persuade clients to invest in the research and development that underpins that innovation, without just playing it safe.

It also elevates the standing of the designer, providing a great opportunity to show the leadership the industry is capable of, but has yet to grasp in a wholehearted way.

So with all this potential now set to be unleashed, where best might the creative energy go? What might designers do to enhance their reputation in social as well as economic terms, attracting the best brains to the business and making a real, lasting impact?

An obvious, but as yet largely untapped, opportunity concerns environmental issues. How do we save waste and create products and services that benefit the community without destroying the planet?

Legislation governs how designers and manufacturers can operate in different countries, but few are taking a lead over and above these requirements. If designers were to focus in this direction they could really make a difference – to their own standing, but they could also create a better world. How do we make it happen?

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor – Design Week

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