The Cabinet reshuffle, which has seen the creation of the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under Lord Peter Mandelson, has ‘played out very well for the design agenda’, according to Design Council chief executive David Kester.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s reshuffle last week saw BIS created from the merger of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, headed by Lord Mandelson, and John Denham’s Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. BIS will now take full responsibility for design policy at central Government level.
DIUS was only two years old, having been formed after the Department of Trade and Industry was disbanded. Kester says, ‘Some good things came out [of DIUS]. It delivered a broader definition of innovation, which under the DTI was seen principally as being about science and technology.
‘However, the rationale the Government has provided for this new structure is about driving effort to combat the recession.’
Kester adds, ‘The message the Design Council is giving is that it would be a mistake to say that, in a time of recession, we ignore the challenges and opportunities and just go for cuts. We need to be creative and ingenious – then we will come out of the recession in better shape.
‘I would hope that, with a unified effort under one department, and with a minister [Mandelson] who understands design, then there is a good chance of that being listened to.’
He says of Mandelson, ‘I look forward to working with him. He’s a very strong leader with a wealth of experience.’
Lorraine Gamman, director of the Design Against Crime Research Centre at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, says Mandelson, who also has responsibility for universities, should aim to reform design education as his ‘legacy’.
She says, ‘Mandelson is astute and should put his balls on the line to make design a Stem [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] research subject – that’s what will lead real innovation in the UK and make a difference to our future.’
Sebastian Conran, who is working on initiatives to use design to combat crime, in conjunction with the Design Council and the Home Office, says he is ‘optimistic’ about changes at the Home Office, where Alan Johnson replaces former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
He says, ‘I had a lot of admiration for Jacqui, but I remain optimistic about Alan Johnson. He’s done an extremely good job in Health and I hope he can continue to do that in the Home Office.’
HOW THE RESHUFFLE WILL AFFECT DESIGN
- Business Secretary Lord Mandelson takes control of the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which will look after design. Science Minister Lord Drayson stays in place
- With the closure of DIUS, former Innovation Secretary John Denham becomes Communities Secretary, where he will be involved in initiatives such as Designs of the Time
- Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has stood down, to be replaced by former Health Secretary Alan Johnson. He will now work on crime-related initiatives, having previously been involved in healthcare projects such as Design Bugs Out
- Former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has taken over from Johnson at the Department of Health