Building back better – more sustainable, more green, more humane, and closer to the citizens will be at the center of recovery efforts across European Regions and Cities. These efforts will require creativity and cooperation, therefore design is an approach that will be key on European path to health, social and economic recovery. The broad concept of value to the people and planet or so-called triple bottom line - encouraging the simultaneous pursuit of economic value, social equity, and ecosystem quality are concepts that have always been important in the design process. We are thrilled to witness the adoption of co-design process to European policy process in the context of the New European Bauhaus - an initiative aiming to co-create inspirational path for living in the climate-neutral Europe. Being climate neutral is not solely about better materials, sources of energy or efficient electronic equipment; more importantly it is about how we plan our neighborhoods, how we live, work and travel. This is an exciting huge challenge that needs to be done collaboratively and creatively with citizens, that is why design is so crucial to help to bring together various perspectives and imagine those better futures.

Design4Innovation partners are keen to work further to exchange experiences and promote design support best practice in light of rebuilding our regions in light of the effects that the global pandemic has had on our communities and businesses. Most of the immediate government support to SMEs affected by pandemic restrictions across Europe is pretty standard - tax holidays, job retention schemes, grants, no interest/soft loans and not very much related to innovation. Going forward, there will be a need for targeted, challenge-driven support offer to help various sectors or specific businesses to restructure, adapt and innovate, and to do so in a sustainable, future-oriented way. 

One of such initiatives has already been kick-started in London, one of the places most affected by the global pandemic in terms of number of cases of the illness and negative effects of restriction measures on business, workplaces and tourism. At the end of February, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched £500,000 design-led recovery scheme 'Designing London's Recovery'. The initiative is being delivered in partnership with the Design Council and the London Office for Technology and Innovation (LOTI). It will harness the London's design talent and innovation potential to help the capital emerge as a healthier, fairer and more sustainable place to live and work by focusing on citizens’ needs. The programme is mission-led and aims to bring interdisciplinary teams to work together on three innovation briefs with support and mentoring from the Design Council and financial support to design, prototype, test and scale up solutions. It is hoped that this new way of design-led working with organisations across London will deliver solutions developed with Londoners’ needs at the heart and have a lasting impact to the future of Londoners.

Designing London's Recovery Programme - Chart of Activities (Design Council, 2021)

On the national scale, UK Research and Innovation - Innovate UK prepares to launch a Design for Growth Support Programme to support innovation led companies impacted by the pandemic. The plan for the scheme envisions two strands of support actions: a Design Coaching Service for UK SMEs and a programme of Design Awareness Training for Innovate UK Innovation and Growth Specialists. The programme will have national outreach and form part of Innovate UK’s Covid-19 response business support package. The Design Coaching Service is aimed to equip participating businesses with the knowledge and capability to use design in a more strategic way within their organisations and particularly in response to challenges resulting from the pandemic. The training programme is a complementing action to ensure that Innovate UK specialists are suitably equipped to identify and refer those candidate businesses who would most benefit from the Design Coaching Service.

The global pandemic is changing the world profoundly and permanently. Design offers an approach to adaptation and innovation that is focused of people, planet and financial viability. That is why investment in design support will help our businesses and communities in building back better. We look forward to continuing working with our European partners on how to best harness the creative power of design in our regions.