Impact of the design sector

The Flemish Government, and in particular the Flemish Innovation and Enterprise Agency (VLAIO), is convinced of the added value of design and has already taken specific actions to develop it further in Flanders. A few years ago, the Flemish Government started a study to map the impact of the Cultural and Creative Sectors (CCS) in Flanders, including the design sector.

Until now, this CCS impact study has been approached from a quantitative angle, which makes it possible to get an idea of data such as the number of employees and self-employed, the aggregated turnover, and the added value of the CCS.

VLAIO (in cooperation with Flanders DC) has now taken the additional initiative to set up an impact study that focuses on the impact of design, focusing on both the contribution of the design sector as such, as well as on the value of design methods on the innovation capacity of Flemish companies in the traditional industries. This way, we were able to assess the impact of the design sector on the entirety of the Flemish economic landscape through a combination of both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

We have tried to answer the following questions:

  • What is the current impact of design and/or the design sector at an economic level and what influence does design have on various aspects of business management (innovation, market position, development of new products and/or services, etc.)?
  • How can the Flemish government, and in particular VLAIO and Flanders DC, contribute to increase the impact of the design sector?
  • How can companies be convinced of the added value design has to offer?

The following policy recommendations flowed from the Design Sector Impact Study:

  1. Striving towards a better understanding of design;
  2. Promoting and strengthening the awareness of the supply side of the design sector:
    - Organizing an event in which design is promoted in all possible facets;
    - Stimulating and supporting the presence at trade fairs;
    - Providing a platform for designers to present themselves to various companies;
    - Promoting design through targeted communication in trade and sector literature or by setting up a broader awareness campaign.
  3. Investigating the possibilities of (one-time) financial support for companies that wish to start investing in design;
  4. Investigating the possibilities of integrating design into the curriculum of non-design related courses (e.g. different economic courses such as Commercial Engineering, Applied Economics or Commercial Sciences);
  5. Supporting designers and design companies in building their own (international) network and ecosystem;
  6. Investigating the most optimal way to improve coordination within the design sector in Flanders.

With the research results and recommendations, we can work to support companies more specifically in the (efficient) use of design for innovation in companies. In addition, this research gives us the necessary input to increase the awareness of the added value of 'design (thinking)' for innovation.

Participation in the Design4Innovation project allowed us to draft a Design Action Plan and this in turn was a catalyst for us to realize the Design Sector Impact Study.


Advice and inspiration sessions

Another action from the Interreg Design Action Plan were the advice and inspiration sessions.

In these sessions, we wanted to inspire and encourage companies to use design and design methods for innovation within their companies.

On the basis of a number of successful practical examples from Flanders, we bring companies with an innovation question together with companies from the design sector, so that together, they can explore opportunities for cooperation. We also focus on financial support instruments such as our own SME Growth Subsidies in order to further lower the barriers to collaboration.

These sessions were developed in cooperation with Flanders DC and our Business Advisory Team. These advice and inspiration sessions are not one-offs but will be structurally deployed from 2021 onwards for all of the VLAIO support measures, projects, and calls focusing on innovation, design, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

These sessions were also linked to the Henry Van de Velde Awards. The Henry van de Velde Awards showcase and celebrate Flemish designers, as well as companies, products, projects, services and systems that, through the use of various design methods, have led to solution-oriented and exemplary cases with a positive impact on the economy and society.