Design key to innovation, says Sainsbury Review

Design is to play a key role in the acceleration of scientific and technological innovation in the UK, according to the findings of an independent review.

The Sainsbury Review, which was commissioned by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2004, explores the factors that drive science and innovation in the UK and makes recommendations for how best to boost the UK economy in the face of global competition.

According to Friday’s report, the UK can only retain its competitive edge against developing economies which offer cheap manufacturing if it invests in high-value, knowledgeintensive goods and services.

Only with improved research and development, a simpler intellectual property rights system, better knowledge transfer from higher education to business and lower start-up risks to attract investors can this be achieved, the report says.

Lord Sainsbury (pictured), the report’s author, refers to design as a way of accelerating the commercial application of raw science, resulting in knowledge-intensive goods and services.

‘Evidence suggests that the use of design helps scientists to develop commercial applications for their work while it is still at the research stage or at the outset of the technology transfer process,’ he says.

The impact of the Cox Review in creating multidiscipline innovation centres and the Design Council’s SME programme Designing Demand are cited as evidence.

The Design Council and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts both welcome the review in highlighting the role of design in the commercialisation of the UK’s science base.

Nesta chief executive Jonathan Kestenbaum says that what is now critical is policy that will stimulate innovation.

The Government has accepted the recommendations of the review, and is to invest £1bn over the next three years to boost innovation.

‘It is the first real vision for innovation, post-Department of Trade & Industry, with a coherent strategy in which design is explicit,’ says Jeremy Myerson, Professor of design mstudies at the Royal College of Art and director of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre.

He sees potential in the proofof- concept fund, which would involve mock-ups, prototyping and visualisation, all containing a strong design element.

• Increasing knowledge transfer between higher education, industry and cross-business sectors by improving the Higher Education Innovation Fund and doubling the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
• The setting up of a nationally agreed specification for proof-ofconcept funding, to minimise risk and attract investment
• Improving access to, and awareness of, the UK Intellectual Property Office patent registration database to avoid duplication of research projects
• The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is to produce an annual cross-Government innovation report, including activities of the Technology Strategy Board, which is working with the creative industries to develop high-level technological goods and services.
• Copy of the report available at

Latest articles