Design industry welcomes Vince Cable’s Government appointment

Design industry observers say former Liberal Democrat economic spokesman Vince Cable’s appointment as Secretary of State for Business Innovation & Skills bodes well for the sector.

BIS, formed in June 2009, holds responsibility for design at central Government level. Design Council chief executive David Kester says the appointment of Cable, who succeeds Lord Mandelson, ’sends a strong message about enterprise and innovation’. Kester predicts, ’You’ll hear him not just talk about cuts, but also growth.’

Describing Cable as an ’understanding economist’, Kester says, ’The design industries should welcome Cable’s appointment.’ Kester believes Cable will understand the value design brings to the economy. He says, ’How to turn ideas into products, services and exports – that’s where design can come in.’

Kester adds, ’BIS as a department is all about how to recognise value in creativity and deploy ingenuity. The Government will need to make cuts innovatively, put business first and, through smart procurement in areas such as healthcare, secure innovation in the private sector.’

Conservative David Willetts has been appointed Minister for Universities and Science, a BIS post. Willetts replaces both Lord Drayson, previously Minister for Science and Innovation, and David Lammy, previously Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property. The Design Council will later this year reveal results of its work with science research teams, by using design to help ’accelerate ideas’.

Kester says, ’Willetts will be interested in how we can convert science into business ventures.’ Sebastian Conran, of Sebastian Conran Associates, has frequently spoken publicly about intellectual property, which may fall under Willetts’ brief. He calls on Willetts to promote a’simpler, more straightforward, more accessible system of protecting IP rights’.

Conran adds, ’There should be an automatic protection of IP rights. Trying to protect patents against a powerful company is horrendously expensive and there must be less expensive, more effective ways to defend patents.’ Pleased with Cable’s appointment on the strength of his ’understanding of economics’, Conran advises that the UK needs to focus on ’smart manufacturing’.

He adds, ’Manufacturing in the UK shouldn’t be the focus. We should continue to design and develop in the UK, but make elsewhere, due to inexpensive shipping costs.’ Conran suggests the Government would do well to encourage design businesses and design colleges to share facilities. He says, ’In medicine there’s a huge amount of collaboration between university research and the pharmaceutical industry, but less so in the design world.’

Dani Salvadori, director of enterprise at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, invites more contact from BIS with design education and says it will find that ’we are not frivolous, but an important part of the economy’. She adds, ’Design is not an add-on, we can be part of rebuilding Britain’s manufacturing and industrial base, especially if integrated with science and technology early on in projects.’

Government posts with design remits

  • Liberal Democrat Vince Cable is Secretary of State for Business Innovation & Skills
  • Conservative Jeremy Hunt is Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
  • Conservative David Willetts has been appointed Minister for Universities and Science, a BIS post
  • Conservatives Mark Prisk and John Hayes have been appointed ministers within BIS
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