Yesterday, George Osborne gave his first budget since the general election, setting out his plan to grow the UK economy, build the Northern Powerhouse and bring about further public service reform. Here, Design Council Chief Executive John Mathers welcomes the government’s focus on boosting UK productivity, and argues that design must form an active part of the government’s initiative.

For the second year in a row, Britain is expected to have the strongest economic growth of any major advanced economy in the world. However, the challenge is staying ahead of our global competitors.

The UK has the largest design sector in Europe and the second largest in the world. As a key component of the creative industries, design had the largest compound annual growth rate between 2008-2013, growing at an average of 10.8% per year. However, this is only part of the picture, as designers and design skills also contribute to the wider economy by adding value to sectors such as automotive and aerospace, creating strong brands and differentiating products.

On Friday 10 July, the government will publish its ‘Plan for Productivity’ to address the UK’s flagging productivity levels. Design must be at the heart of this. Good design holds the key to higher productivity, whether that’s through better workplaces, supply chains or infrastructure.

We must urgently reimagine the way we deliver our public services...This means smart design.

Our research suggests that for every £1 businesses invest in design, they can expect over £20 in increased revenues. As the Chancellor acknowledged today, a big part of this is skills. We must ensure that the next generation of designers, engineers and innovators have the creative skills necessary to keep Britain growing – and that means investment.

The Chancellor also set out welcome plans to develop the Northern Powerhouse, including the intention to improve transport infrastructure in the area. Design Council’s cities programme has demonstrated that a strategic approach to planning can successfully produce the infrastructure necessary to deliver local ambitions and stimulate local growth, creating more successful, prosperous places across the country.

If the UK is to continue to make savings, we must urgently reimagine the way we deliver our public services, while ensuring they are fit for the future. This means smart design. Design Council’s groundbreaking design-led work in A&E helped the Department of Health reduce violent behaviour by 50 per cent, while a collaborative approach to local delivery of services in Lewisham has saved £486k a year.

We will continue to work with local authorities, providing them with the tools to understand their customers and redesign critical services to deliver more sustainable outcomes. Central government should encourage local authorities to invest in well-structured design.

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