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Optimizing Design, Design Research and Innovation Through Collaboration

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Denmark has a long tradition of leveraging design in its products as well as in its private and public environment, and over the years, Danish firms have successfully exported Scandinavian values and their human and societal perspectives on design. Since Denmark relies heavily on trade with other nations, moving up the "design ladder," from design as styling to the integration of design with business, is viewed as the best way to create and capture value.

The strong influence of the creative economy and specifically design and innovation is therefore being strategically pursued though the Danish Centre for Design Research as well as the Danish Design Center and the Danish Innovation Centers which are located around the world. With the government's on going plans for developing a design policy that includes everyone from elementary schools to design and architectural schools, as well as industry and the general public, it will be betting heavily on the creative economy to drive progress in these areas.

The Danish Centre for Design Research is fostering this collaboration and aligning Denmark's design research effort. By coordinating the design and architectural schools' research efforts and disseminating results to the wider community in their online publication, Mind Design, the center hopes to ensure cross-fertilization between research and education in both design and industry. Over the past ten years they helped make Ph.D. programs in design a reality through the development of PhD courses targeted at doctoral students in design. In a relatively short time, they have created a strong national design research culture on which to base a design renewal.

The Danish Design Center has been a key player in promoting Danish Design since 1978 by conducting studies, awarding the Danish Design Prize, organizing exhibits, publishing their quarterly Design Bulletin magazine and offering industrial courses on how to implement design in business. The center also promotes Danish design internationally by profiling contemporary Danish design and design competencies. The goal is to attract investments and clients by establishing the country as a design nation.

The Danish Innovation Centers (opened in 2006) help Danish firms to connect with markets and technologies around the world. Most Danish firms are of small to medium size and collectively pooling export resources makes them able to compete with players many times their size. Acquiring new technologies is also a key driver of innovation and eighty percent of all Danish technology is imported and integrated into products including furniture, consumer products, IT and medical equipment.

The climate for business is changing rather quickly, so focusing exclusively on competition and ROE would seem to be a losing proposition, while collaboration and innovation continues to be the way forward. This new development in the way business is being conducted would then seem to place design innovation and design research at the top of the strategic business menu for any country interested in developing new, leading edge markets. In this regard, Denmark would seem to be well ahead of the curve.