Design Driven Innovation

Why It Matters For SME Competitiveness

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A study into why and more importantly, how, design means business in Ireland was launched in Dublin on the 11th March 2015. Called Design Driven Innovation: Why it matters for SME Competitiveness report, the study illustrates the value of enriching Ireland's current eco-system of innovation supports with design; the benefits this will bring to the Irish economy and how this will improve competitiveness and growth potential of Irish SMEs. 

Importantly, it includes SME case studies where companies have applied design strategically with demonstrably positive results. It also includes a recommended action plan to develop the application, adoption and awareness of design-driven innovation amongst Irish owned SMEs.

The study was funded under the European Design Innovation Initiative through the Northern and Western Regional Assembly’s (NWRA) participation in the SEE Project (Sharing Experience Europe: Policy Innovation Design). It is one of six projects funded under phase one of the Initiative.

A dedicated steering group was established in 2013 under the direction the NWRA and SEE to deliver the study. PIVOT Dublin was delighted to be a member of the steering group, the work building on one of our core aims to ‘Promote Design as a Resource that can help us Adapt, Innovate and Grow’.

The study’s authors are CIRCA Group Europe with critical communication design input by Red&Grey Design.

The publication coincides with Irish Design (ID) 2015, a year-long Government backed initiative exploring and promoting Irish design in all forms.

Key Findings of the Report

  1. The Design Process is Now Widely Recognised as a Tool of Innovation.
  2. Investment in Design-Driven Innovation Processes by Governments and Firms Across Europe and the World is Yielding Increased Growth, Employment and Competitiveness for SMEs.
  3. An Opportunity Exists in Ireland to Change Mindsets about What it Means to Apply Design-Thinking Principles to Business Development and Innovation.
  4. Lessons from Other Countries Indicate that Supports to Irish SMEs could be Enhanced by the Addition of Design-Driven Support Programmes.
  5. Some SMEs in Ireland are Successfully Applying the Design-Driven Approach to Grow, Export and Evolve.
  6. Hidden Design is a Key Factor when Considering Policy and Supports for Design-Driven Innovation.

Some Other Similar PIVOT Initiatives

Project Steering Group

  • Adrian O’Donoghue, Policy & Research Officer, Northern & Western Regional Assembly (Chair).
  • Richard Christie, Head of Design & Commercialisation Services, Invest Northern Ireland.
  • Gerry Finn, Director, Northern & WesternRegional Assembly.
  • Bob Gray, Director, Red&Grey Design & Undergraduate Lecturer National College of Art & Design.
  • Ali Grehan, Dublin City Architect, Dublin City Council & Founder of PIVOT Dublin.
  • Bernadette McGahon, Science & Technology Manager, InterTrade Ireland.
  • Barry Sheehan, Head of Design, Dublin Institute of Technology.
  • David Tormey, Senior Lecturer & Researcher, Centre for Design Innovation, School of Design & Engineering, IT Sligo.
  • Anna Whicher, Head of Policy, National Centre for Product Design & Development Research, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Wales.


  • Patrick Lawlor, Senior Consultant & Project Lead, CIRCA Group Europe.
  • Adrian O’Donoghue, Policy & Research Officer, Northern & Western Regional Assembly.
  • Brendan Wafer, Managing Director, CIRCA Group Europe.
  • Eddie Commins, Associate Director, CIRCA Group Europe.

Design and Layout

Bob Gray, Director, Red&Grey Design Ltd.


Ros Kavanagh Photography Ltd.

Design Driven Innovation: Why it matters for SME Competitiveness report

Image Jim Costello, Forest Produce Ltd.


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