Design Council is on the road this Autumn. Starting with the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and on to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, we'll be talking to politicians, charities and business about the importance of design and the impact design has on the UK.

Our Design Economy report presented a compelling case for design and its contribution to the economy. It showed that design generates over £70 billion in GVA, workers with a design element to their work are 41% more productive than average, and between 2009 and 2013 the design economy grew at a faster rate than the economy. Our current research shows design's role in the future economy is increasing and we have to make sure that decision makers are prepared for this, and are aware of the challenges ahead.

Last week we welcomed Sir Peter Bazalgette’s review of the Creative Industries. The review presents a clear case for a creative sector deal. At its core is a proposed £500 million 'creative clusters fund', a creative R&D tax credit and support for start-ups and small businesses to gain investment and grow. Locally driven these 'creative clusters' will generate alliances between small creative enterprises, local authorities, higher education, local enterprise partnerships and business to drive local, regional and national growth.

Locally driven growth is at the heart of our response to the Industrial Strategy, a Design for Growth Blueprint. The opportunity of a sector deal must take account of local need, opportunity and challenges. Heavily centred in the South East there is significant opportunity for the creative industries to strengthen, growing across the UK and building resilience in skills and innovation across the country. Design is central to this, operating throughout the economy it is uniquely placed to harness the opportunities that the fourth industrial revolution brings.

The impact of the fourth industrial revolution is here. It's arrived. And it’s rising up the policy agenda. It's great to see that both Nesta, with its Future of Skills report, and the V&A, with its DesignLab Nation, are contributing to this vital debate. We must develop the right policies now to have the right skills for the future and we will be publishing our game-changing skills research in November.

Throughout the Autumn, we'll be talking about how important design is to our future – from homes, health and skills to jobs, industry and aviation. We'll also be discussing how other countries have realised the importance of design and are taking a proactive approach to design in public life, more so than the UK. Denmark now has design teaching in school, there is a national action plan for design in Estonia and China’s Five Year Plan has a central theme of moving from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Designed in China’.

The key to long-term, sustainable growth is design. It is in design that significant value resides. The UK is home to, and has exported across the world, great architecture, product design and industrial design which shapes our everyday life. But it is also across more traditional sectors where the importance of design is being realised. However, we have to face up to dawning reality that there are significant challenges for UK design. From Brexit to skills shortages, from a male workforce to concentration in the South East.

In 2017, just under 166,000 students took design and technology subjects, less than half the numbers recorded in 2003. This is not sustainable for design businesses or the UK economy which is dependent on design skills.

In Brighton and Manchester, we will be asking MPs to recognise design’s current contribution to the economy, we'll press for design to be back in the curriculum to maintain our global status and we'll emphasise the need to act now for the future of the economy. 

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