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New research shows design contributes £71.7bn to UK economy

New research shows design contributes £71.7bn to UK economy

22 October 2015 Written by By Annabella Coldrick Director, Policy & Research (2014 - 2015)

We've launch our new findings on The Design Economy, illustrating the full impact of the £71.7bn of value that design contributes to the UK.

The Design Economy Report is a ground-breaking piece of research, which takes a wide perspective on the value that design brings. We look at design roles across all sectors — from design of the built environment to user-experience design in cutting-edge web agencies to engineering design in manufacturing companies.

This shows the amazing impact of design, which has created jobs at three times the national average and employs 1.6m people; around a third directly in design-intensive firms and the rest across other sectors. There is a significant overlap with the Creative Industries, but the design economy goes beyond this and nearly one third of design roles are outside of the creative economy.

The wider scope of this research combined with the impressive growth that design has experienced and in particular the contribution of digital, (making up 41 per cent of the design economy’s GVA), means that our figures are higher than DCMS product, graphic and fashion statistics — and indeed our own previous reports.*

There are growing and successful design hotspots in the UK, mainly focused around the South East and our major cities such as Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. However there are areas where design is underused, and there is a clear case for government and Design Council to look at how we can spread the benefits that design brings more widely across the country.

The research shows that design roles are 41 per cent more productive than the average, meaning that increasing uptake of design can play a key role in rebalancing the economy and helping support the Chancellor’s vision to create a Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

From an international perspective, the UK’s design sector is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world. Our design education is in demand with countries around the world sending their students to study at our respected design schools and universities. Nevertheless there is more scope for growth as we sit behind Germany, Italy, the USA and China in terms of our design exports. For the first time, as well as looking at exports of design services (product, graphic and fashion), we also look at the share of design’s contribution to the resulting good exports (eg, cars, planes, toys), which in 2013 was equivalent to £34bn, or 7.3 per cent of total export value.

The exponential growth of design roles means that our businesses need a increasing supply of design talent. By broadening out our definition to include architects, software designers and design engineers, this shows nearly 8 out of 10 designers are male, even higher than our previous research. This presents a challenge to government to help schools and parents understand the potential career pathways that design offers to increase the talent pipeline and insure our companies can find the home-grown skills they need

The full report is now available for purchase. With such a rich source of data and information, we will continue this series of articles over the coming weeks with a series of deep dives into the various issues that the research explores. These will include devolution, productivity, digital design, designers’ pay, design skills and demographics. For further detail on the methodology we have used, please see the technical paper.

We could not have done this research without the support of the following organisations and would like to thank them again for their contribution: Arts & Humanities Research Council, Design & Art Direction, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Department for Culture, Media and Sports, Economic and Social Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Innovate UK, Intellectual Property Office, Knowledge Transfer Network and University of the Arts London.  We would also like to thank the agencies TBR and BOP whose research contributed the data and analysis behind this report.

We hope this report will play a key role in demonstrating how critical design is to our economy and the need for government to continue to champion British design at home and abroad.

* In 2010 we didn’t look at GVA, but we did look at in-house spend on design and consultancies (excluding design in the built environment), which equated to £15bn. DCMS data focuses solely on product, graphic and fashion design services and also shows design is fast growing and contributes £3bn to GVA.

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