BDI lobbies Mandelson over university design departments

British Design Innovation is calling on Lord Mandelson to stop university design departments competing with design groups for business.

BDI chief executive Maxine Horn wrote to Mandelson this week, following his appointment as Business Secretary in this month’s Cabinet reshuffle. Mandelson’s role also takes in responsibility for higher education.

Horn’s letter refers to the BDI report Delivering the Innovation Dream, published earlier this year, which argues that universities, SMEs and designers should collaborate on projects instead of competing.

‘A strategic national University Design Industry Partnership scheme would help deflect pressure from the universities, which appear to be viewed as a kind of innovation remedy by the Government, but whose connections to the most suitable industrial partners are somewhat unstructured,’ says Horn.

‘We want more recognition of strategic designers by the higher education sector, and we want universities which set up innovation centres in conflict with the design industry to start involving designers,’ adds BDI editor Frank Landamore.

‘A formal national strategic outline could encourage universities to benefit from professional design expertise,’ he adds.

‘Universities do not appreciate that strategic designers are shortcuts to success.’

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  • Kevin Quigley November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Not just strategic design – all design activities. A lot of what the universities do comes under the guise of “free design services”. Commercial designers cannot compete against free services. All we want is the opportunity to access the same funding pots so we can compete against what the universities offer on an equal footing. Universities are there to push the boundaries of research and teaching, not to boost income by offering cut price services.

    Every commercial product designer in the UK has had to deal with this. We are getting fed up.

  • Jonathan Butters November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    As you would expect there is a great deal of inconsistency around this situation as they have been encouraged to engage with industry, but, arguably, there has not been much by way of clear guidelines as to how they should do this. I am working with some great people in some Universities doing exactly what you would expect – helping to bring a robust commercialisation process to bear on their technology. They tend to be very open and very keen to collaborate. But, on the other hand, I then find myself competing with heavilly subsidised and sign posted offerings elsewhere from other Universities who attempt to offer exactly what my company does. Not surprisingly, collaboration is the last thing on their minds! In terms of differentiation, the key thing is that we have experience, insight and consistent creativity. I am yet to see a convincing portfolio of commercial outputs from more than a very small number of Universities. However, many “new” customers to what we do are easily wooed when subsidies are offered or a heavilly and, on the surface, convincing case is put to them by a University. As work progresses I am publishing all the good outputs from positive University collaborations to show the value created by doing it properly.

  • Glenn Platt November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Hang on… isn’t this a U-turn, or industry hypocrisy at it’s worst? Most agencies when recruiting bleat about how graduate designers have no work experience, and students find themselves in a Catch-22…
    … they say all is fair in love and war, but life has never been fair in business.
    If I had the chance of working with young eager creative people working within well-resourced environments OR pushing water uphill with some tired old hacks, many of whom still lament the passing of the Etch-A-Sketch – think about it… who YOU gonna call?
    It’s time that our ‘industry’ got over itself. If not despondency will take the ascendency next time round… and we’re supposed to be good at dealing with problems?

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