RDA support for design is key to economic success

As both an experienced design professional, and senior design specialist for the regional development agency One North East, I was a guest speaker at the Design Council event Shape the Future of Design Networks in December (News Analysis, DW 7 January).

Regarding the debate about public sector funding for design initiatives, the North East has a fundamentally different business ecology to several regions further south. Public funding is carefully shaped to support at the point where inherent market failure meets demonstrable evidence of need, and such interventions occur across several sectors.

It is well documented that general business awareness of the commercial value of good design is poor – indeed, the successful (publicly funded) Design Council ‘Designing Demand’ national programme was a direct response to this market failure, simultaneously seeking to raise awareness, and link demand for and supply of private design services.

RDAs perform a variety of functions, central to which is economic growth and regeneration.

One North East’s support for design is a key part of a long-term economic development strategy focused on a broad range of areas including low-carbon vehicles, new and renewable energies, healthcare, the sciences, process industries, digital and software sectors, as well as providing wider stewardship of key roles including Business Link, access to finance, inward investment, strategic account management, enterprise, skills and so on.

Putting design at the heart of such strategic investment is surely a shining example of the joined-up and collaborative thinking that has been a wider creative industries ambition for many years?

North East public funding of national products and regional support programmes drive awareness, network development, disseminate good practice, skills and training, and prime collaborative working across private sector business, industry and the knowledge base.

They are vital and highly demonstrable accelerants of both sustainable demand for design and creative services, and wider regional business growth and competitiveness.

Ben Strutt, Design senior specialist, One North East, Stella House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE15 8NY

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