Lee Hopley is Chief Economist at EEF. She is an expert on manufacturing and industrial policy, dealing with macroeconomic issues and matters relating to productivity and manufacturing competitiveness.

Design Council’s research for last year’s Leading Business by Design Summit showed that design is user-centred, that it can add value to any organisation, and that it is most powerful when culturally embedded within an organisation. This year’s research is more specific, taking a deep-dive into the civil aerospace and passenger automotive manufacturing sectors, and has drawn out some interesting findings.

The demand environment has been challenging and uncertain in recent years, but manufacturers have retained a strong focus on the activities that will support their growth and that of the economy as a whole. Continuous investments in people, innovation and technology have become hardwired across the manufacturing sector, and a focus on design is becoming ever more important.

Design isn’t a bolt on or a ‘nice to have’.

Lee Hopley, Chief Economist, EEF

Design isn’t a bolt on or a ‘nice to have’ - it’s becoming more integral to producing goods and services that meet regulatory requirements, enhance the user experience, capture the benefits of new technologies and act as a business differentiator. The examples contained in the research for 2015’s Summit highlight the difference this can make to business outcomes.

They also share some common themes for other advanced manufacturing sectors, such as the potential for greater supply chain collaboration in design and the need to be forward thinking in the development of future talent. If more companies are open to the possibilities of investing in design capabilities we can be confident about the future of manufacturing and the contribution it can make to the UK economy.

British manufacturing may have had a sluggish start to 2015, but that was perhaps to be expected. This new government has a responsibility to deliver a better-balanced economy, driven by increased exports, investment, innovation, and improved infrastructure and productivity. Skills, recruitment and training can be the fuel that drives the manufacturing engine of this economy, while the UK’s design industry can add torque and horsepower.

Lee will be speaking at the Leading Business by Design Summit on 18 June 2015.

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