Jul 06. 2021

How Design Support Programmes Help Businesses

Design support programmes help small and medium businesses to embrace design concepts in order to innovate. Whether developing a new product or launching a service, design support programmes can help to test and refine a concept to minimise the risk before it goes to market.

Piotr Swiatek, Project Manager at PDR, discusses how design support programmes work and how PDR uses them to support businesses.

What is a design support programme?

“Simply put,” explains Piotr, “a design support programme helps businesses build their capacity to use design as a regular process. Programmes vary, but they can involve aspects of financial and non-financial support. "

“Support can extend to investment, loans, training, advice, workshops and mentoring schemes, all with the purpose of driving and facilitating innovation."

“Programmes of this kind have been created to support smaller companies. Big corporations like Google already understand the value of design and use it regularly to make new ideas a reality. But these principles are just as relevant to companies with smaller scopes and budgets.”

Support can extend to investment, loans, training, advice, workshops and mentoring schemes, all with the purpose of driving and facilitating innovation.

Piotr Swiatek | Project Manager | PDR

How can design support programmes help businesses?

Several studies demonstrate the efficacy of design support programmes, helping companies to create new products or services, increase their market share, attract investment and create new jobs. 

As Piotr puts it: “There are so many benefits to design support programmes. Those businesses that embrace design on a strategic level can achieve much better business results."

“But design can also help businesses to de-risk ideas - that is to say, businesses can quickly determine if a concept is not a good idea in practice. We actually worked with a children’s bike manufacturer, Frog Bikes, and helped to steer them away from an idea that design methods proved would fail, ultimately saving them money.”

How does PDR help businesses with design support?

As a design centre, PDR works closely with private sector businesses and public sector organisations. 

“Often, access to public funding can be strenuous and bureaucratic, which discourages people from applying”, says Piotr. “It’s important to look at the support process from the business’s perspective to ensure best results."

“We remove barriers to innovating through design by introducing user-friendly systems that clearly explain each stage of the programme, providing bespoke support and combining advice with information about financial support.”

It’s important to look at the support process from the business’s perspective to ensure best results.

Piotr Swiatek | Project Manager | PDR

What are some notable examples of design support programmes? 

PDR has helped to develop, deliver and evaluate some of the most successful design support schemes. Scottish Enterprise’s ‘By Design’ grant scheme, developed and evaluated with PDR’s input, boasts some impressive results.

“Following a relatively low-level financial grant of £5,000, coupled with design mentoring, 64% of the companies participating in the scheme reported that they’d launched a new product or service, generating £240,000 on average in extra sales. "

“83% reported that they’d continued to work with design experts after the scheme, investing roughly £26,000 into design practices.” This demonstrates that a small government grant of up to £5,000 can stimulate a five-fold increase in investment.

When should SMEs adopt design-led thinking?

Often, SME leaders feel that their business isn’t large or successful enough to adopt design thinking. But in reality, adoption of design methods is relevant to any type of business and can quickly lead to growth.

As Piotr explains: “A design approach is about constant improvement. It’s relevant at even the earliest stage of a business lifecycle, when considering competitors and developing a visual identity.”

Final thoughts 

Design support programmes break down barriers to design adoption and investment. This in turn can help businesses to innovate, enhancing their attractiveness to investors and customers alike.

Next steps

Interested in design support for your small or medium enterprise? Contact us to arrange a discussion.