The European Commission says Europe must look beyond technology innovation and focus more energy on design to achieve its growth potential.

Speaking at the first Design for Europe annual summit in Brussels, Antti Peltomäki, Deputy Director-General, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs at the European Commission also stated that whilst the EU’s overall level of innovation has remained stable, more investment is needed to boost its innovation performance.

Workshop discussions at the Design for Europe summit

Peltomäki went on to stress the European Commission’s commitment to encouraging greater adoption of design as a driver for innovation and growth within both the public and private sector – outlining how design is helping organisations compete on a global scale and provide more user driven solutions. However, he emphasised that a continued investment in skills is vital to ensuring Europe has the highly qualified design talent it requires.

62% of EU companies use design in their business

The comments come as initial findings from the European Commission’s latest Innobarometer reveal 62% of EU companies use design in their business. Furthermore, for almost one in three, design is now an integral element of their development work or even central to their company's strategy.

Annabella Coldrick, Design for Europe programme coordinator and Director of Policy and Research at Design Council said:

As the results of the Innobarometer show, Europe’s businesses are beginning to embrace design. Design can be the catalyst for boosting innovation, economic growth and job creation. As such it is vital that we help businesses and public sector organisations better understand the important role design plays and encourage more EU members to include design in their national policy.

The European Growth by Design Summit brought together business leaders, public sector and policy professionals and design experts to discuss how Europe can revitalise business growth through design-led innovation.

More than 220 attendees from across Europe heard first hand from design experts, including the former design director at Electrolux and Phillips, Stefano Marzano and Dr Anne Stenros, Design Director, Kone how organisations can use design to create better products and services, increase profits and improve customer experience.

Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink, President of FME-Dutch

Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink, President of FME-Dutch also reinforced the skills message – saying education systems should be set up to encourage creativity from primary school age. She also highlighted a need for new management skills – stressing how organisations can benefit from appointing a chief design officer.

Antti Peltomäki commented:

We included a question on the use of design in our Innobarometer, which is a survey addressed to decision makers of companies in all member states as well as in Switzerland and in the US. The companies were asked about the level of integration of design into their business. [...] The results are encouraging, even if the disparities between the EU countries are big. We also found that companies in the US are more likely to say design is not used in their company, compared to their counterparts in the EU (49% vs 38%).

Design for Europe is a three year, €3.8m European Commission (EC) funded programme that aims to help organisations in the public and private sector use design to accelerate innovation. The project was set up to boost economic growth and job creation across Europe through design-led innovation. It is part of the EC’s Action Plan for Design-Driven Innovation, which aims to accelerate the take-up of design in innovation policies at European, national and regional levels.