Policy Framework for Design in Ireland

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
1 year
Design support
Design and Crafts Council of Ireland


During the global financial crisis unemployment in Ireland stood at 15%, and in recent years job creation has been the most influential driving force behind Irish government policy. The Government set a target to create 100,000 jobs reaching full employment by 2018 with the design industry identified as an important source of new roles.

Following support from business leaders at the Global Irish Economic Forum in 2013, Ireland's Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) designated 2015 the Year of Irish Design. DJEI provided €5 million that was matched by industry sponsors to fund a yearlong national and international campaign.

The Year of Irish Design (ID2015), with the President of Ireland as its patron, had ambitious targets set out in the Government's Action Plan for Jobs 2015:

  • Create 1,800 new jobs in design
  • Establish 200 design-led business start-ups
  • Generate €10 million in design exports
  • Engage with 3 million at home and abroad
  • Enable 300 companies to participate in international design-based trade missions

To monitor the implementation of ID2015 and the Action Plan for Jobs, a steering committee was convened with representatives from DJEI, Enterprise Ireland, the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and IDA Ireland, the investment promotion agency.

To inform their future actions, DJEI also commissioned three studies which examined: the role of design in Irish enterprises, the profile of the design sector and the Irish Design Footprint based on industry codes.

The studies revealed that:

  • Among a sample of innovative Irish companies 90% perceived design as a driver of innovation
  • 83% of innovative firms stated that design increases profitability
  • 97% of firms surveyed asserted that design is key to increased customer satisfaction
  • 75% of those employed in design are male
  • 66% of designers have a third level qualification
  • Between 2011 and 2014, employment in design increased by 6.7%
  • Exports from design account for €38 billion or 21% of total exports (higher relative to the UK)

How design helped

As part of the implementation of the Action Plan for Jobs 2015, Enterprise Ireland and Dublin City Local Enterprise Office were responsible for two new design support programmes:

Competitive Start Fund, Enterprise Ireland

Launched by the Minister for Business and Employment in July 2015, who described the design as “the missing link in Ireland’s innovation agenda”, the Competitive Start Fund provided €50,000 to seven start-ups. In exchange for a share of the equity, the fund provided financial support to help the firms use design to gain a competitive advantage. The beneficiaries ranged from a manufacturing firm to an international services provider – the results of the programme will be evaluated in July 2016.

Design for Growth, Dublin City Local Enterprise Office

Launched in September 2015, the Design for Growth pilot awarded 15 companies the opportunity to work with a Design Advisor on a part-funded basis to develop a design strategy tailored to improving their business. It is anticipated that in the next phase five of the companies will be selected to implement the design strategy on a part-funded basis. In 2016, the Design for Growth vouchers will be extended beyond Dublin to the 28 Local Enterprise Offices across Ireland.

In addition to the support programmes the Minister for Business and Employment commissioned a mapping of all of the innovation programmes offered by Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices to identify where design can be integrated into mainstream programmes.

In January 2016, building on the success of the Year of Irish Design 2015, the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 and the design support programmes, DJEI published the Policy Framework for Design in Ireland.

The Policy Framework for Design focused on six key elements:

  • Increased use of design-driven innovation in enterprise
  • Building scale in the design sector
  • A step-up in the engineering design sector
  • Supporting entrepreneurship in the design sectors
  • Developing skills and talent in design
  • More females in design roles

Government will work with the design sector to bring design into the heart of enterprise policy and to lose its status as the Cinderella of Ireland’s innovation strategy and action plans.

Ged Nash TD
Minister for Business and Employment, Irish Government

According to the Principle of the Enterprise Division at DJEI “the challenge is to generate practical delivery of those strategies and to sustain momentum after the success of ID2015”.


  • €19M design-related exports generated
  • 370 new design businesses registered
  • 4000 new jobs in design created

By the end of the year, according to the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, ID2015 had reached or exceeded all its anticipated impact:

Target in the Action Plan for Jobs 2015

  • 1,800 new jobs in design
  • 200 design-led business start-ups
  • €10 million in design exports
  • 3 million audience at home and abroad
  • 300 companies in international trade missions

Impact by January 2016

  • 4000 new jobs in design created
  • 370 new design businesses registered
  • €19 million in design-related exports generated
  • 28.5 million engaged at home and abroad through 670 projects including 100 internationally
  • 476 Irish companies showcased internationally in 23 countries

The Design and Crafts Council is conducting ongoing evaluation of the economic impact of the ID2015 and Karen Hennessy, Chief Executive of the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland and ID2015 reported that “the return on investment in the initiative was over tenfold”. Furthermore, Alex Milton, ID2015 Programme Director, revealed that “over 14,000 designers and 1,600 businesses have received training” as part of the initiative.

The Irish Government is already committed to pursuing concrete actions under the Action Plan for Jobs 2016, including:

  • Strengthening Ireland’s design capability and performance through Enterprise Ireland programmes such as Competitive Start Funds, International Trade Promotion and Clustering initiatives
  • Expanding the Design for Growth initiative to Local Enterprise Offices across Ireland bringing small firms and designers together
  • Continuing to promote Irish design through Embassies abroad
  • Examining the provision of design skills as part of the Government’s Future Skills Group

It is the vision of the Business and Employment Minister to:

​Engage with Ministers, Departments and agencies, and others in the Government sector to better embed design in various aspects of national policy – education, culture, tourism, foreign diplomacy – but most importantly enterprise and innovation, as a force for job creation, international competitiveness and foreign investment.

Ged Nash TD
Minister for Business and Employment, Irish Government