Design for Innovation project implementation for Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) has been both amazing and challenging years.

Our partner meeting were so productive!

We have been introduced with so much financial and non-financial support good practices presented by our partners. They were surprisingly various - each country has something special which surprised other partners. And it was very inspiring to visit entrepreneurs who have received support and who shared their stories on how this support and use of design/ design thinking improved their products/services and significantly increased their competitiveness.

In each partner meeting main partner PDR in our workshops used different design thinking method, raising also partners knowledge.

And it was challenging to transfer theses new ideas and knowledge to stakeholder group and general public in dissemination events.

To achieve the best results for Design4Innovation project, LIAA selected a broad range of stakeholders to represent all elements of the innovation ecosystem in Latvia (public and business organizations, the professional design sector, academia). So in stakeholders’ meetings we had enthusiastic discussions between stakeholders and experts, especially when it came to action plan development and we needed to identify activities to implement which would be based on good practices of the project partners, as well as a situation analysis of Latvian design ecosystem’s needs, strong and week points.

Also we were proud to introduce these design thinking methods and good practices of partners to the general public in our organized dissemination events. Sometimes for those events design sector experts were invited to lead workshops on a specific topic. And we were surprised by how much the public were interested! These events showed that there isn’t a sufficient understanding of design as key element to raise SME`s competitiveness and how important is to raise awareness about design as a tool for user-centered innovation.

Our joint work has resulted in the development of the Action Plan which includes 3 activities:

1. Design vouchers programme - in frame of this action it is planned to implement two more actions which will contribute to better programme results:

1.1. Creating a database of actively practicing design professionals

1.2. Organizing regular design meet-ups

2. Educational events – providing information on how design-based innovation can improve business.

3. Organization of regular “speed-dating/matchmaking” events for designers and other industries.

But of course our success story is new financial support implemented in EU Operational programme - Design voucher programme.

LIAA is the institution implementing state support programmes, advancing grants to entrepreneurs to increase their competitiveness. And one of the support programme administrated by LIAA is Innovation voucher programme – it is financial support for SME`s to develop new product and technologies.

Already at the first partner meeting in Bruges, Belgium where Flanders presented financial support programme SME Wallet (programme of subsidies to support SME’s business activities, including incorporation of the strategic design into their operations) , LIAA realized that such support would be a great accession to Innovation voucher programme. In this case, in product development cycle SME would get ‘’full package’’ and involve designers. Even more, LIAA realized that it would be not only an accession to Innovation voucher programme, but the first financial support for designer`s services in Latvia, since there has never been such or similar support.

As LIAA is administration institution directly subordinated to the Ministry of Economics of the Republic of Latvia it was possible for LIAA to initiate changes to the Operational programme. LIAA prepared amendments, submitted them to the Ministry of Economics, which moved them further towards the Cabinet for approval. As a result a new financial support - Design voucher programme was approved and in May of 2020 first call was launched. In order to promote this new support different seminars where organized and slowly this support became popular, and various SME`s received it.

So LIAA is very proud that its participation in the project has resulted in the first support for design use and hope that this will be a starting point for other support schemes in the future.