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DESMA Report Summary

Project ID: 290137
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Sweden

Final Report Summary - DESMA (Design as driver of innovation and competitiveness)

This project combines leading research institutions in design management in Europe; 4 universities with anchoring in both design and management, 4 design companies and 4 production and service organizations, representing a complementary mix between design, service and manufacturing as well as skill sets and research interests. The overall objective of DESMA is to create and support a new generation of design management researchers who are able to cross the design-management and academia-industry divides which currently inhibit the full exploitation of design as a driver of innovation and competitiveness. This entailed recruiting, training and supporting a group of individuals (ESR) who are able to work in these intersection, with a deep understanding of their respective languages, epistemologies, and practices. DESMA should also contribute to raising the quality of design management research through expanding the critical mass of researchers. The ambition was that DESMA should develop into a platform for Design Management research in Europe that could continue to develop after the end of the programme.

In total 13 ESRs were recruited. The programme was organized around 6 training courses and 4 conferences well as a range of the complementary skills training activities. As future leaders in the field, a critical aspect of the training programme was to develop the leadership capabilities of the ESRs, and they were therefore encouraged to take an active part in the development of the programme.

The first period (years 1-2) was dominated by efforts to build a common culture within the network and a shared language for our research, as well as (re)formulating the important research questions in the field. A range of initiatives were taken to lay the groundwork for future collaborations and work groups were created for developing the direction of the programme. A manifesto was developed to summarize the discussions on the identity and emerging ambition of DESMA, reformulating the field as Design + Management (D+M) to highlight that we were looking for new and innovative ways of combining the two disciplines and for doing research in the intersection of academia and industry, as well as for communicating this research. A visual identity that reflects the manifesto, with the “+” as key feature, was developed and a new website was launched. For the mid-term review meeting a publication summarizing the manifesto, visual identity and the ESRs research proposals was developed as well as a short video summarizing what DESMA means to all partners and ESRs:

In addition to continuing with the training activities and research projects, the second period (years 3-4) of the programme focused on opening up the network to include a wider range of researchers and communicating our activities and the value of D + M to the outside world. The advisory board was formally established, consisting of 24 internationally leading researchers located in Europe, US, China and Australia, and practitioners that have all contributed to DESMA as supervisors, advisors, and/or contributors in events and publications.

Two open conferences were held. In September 2014 we hosted DESMA Forum in London where 50 leading experts from industry and academia were invited to discuss the key issues in D + M research and comment on the work of the ESRs. In Gothenburg November 2016 we hosted DESMA Vibes, where 100 participants engaged with the ESRs research in an experiential and collaborative event. DESMA Avenues, a book summarizing the ESRs research projects with commentaries from experts in the advisory board, was published in connection to the event. Both events were video recorded and can be viewed at the website, where the book can also be read or downloaded.

A range of dissemination initiatives, both on-line and off-line, were also implemented in Period 2. DESMA News, a digital newsletter, and DESMA Chats, live-streamed discussions with invited experts in the field, were the main initiatives on-line. DESMA Talks, developed in collaboration with other events in Helsinki, Milan, San Sebastian and Rotterdam, aimed at engaging practitioners in our research, and DESMA Tours set out to communicate our activities to practitioners, public institutions and students in Latin America. These initiatives were part of the complementary skills training as an important purpose was to learn to interact with different audiences in different contexts as well as acquiring project management, leadership, presentation and communication skills.

More information about all these initiatives can be found at the website and more detailed accounts of each of these initiatives are attached to this report in separate documents.

In summary, the objectives of the programme as set out in the project proposal have been met. Most importantly, the programme has supported the development of a new generation of design management researchers with the capacity to move between academia and practice as well as across disciplines. In addition to research skills, they have developed strong communication and leadership skills, contributed to raising the quality and profile of the field and built extensive international networks. Their career prospects have been significantly strengthened. Among the 13 ESRs 2 have completed their PhDs, 1 is scheduled to complete this spring, and 1 ESR opted not to sign up to any formal PhD programme with a university. These 4 individuals already have jobs building on their DESMA research skills; two with large corporations (Philips and IBM), one with a service design research and communication agency in Helsinki, and 1 person stays affiliated with Politecnico di Milano while setting up her own consultancy based on her research outcomes. The 9 remaining ESRs are continuing their research with a complementary 4th year, as they are in 4-year PhD programmes. However one of the ESRs has already commenced a new position with a European design innovation agency in Columbia, taking a leadership role in their expansion in Latin America, in parallel to completing the PhD. Other ESRs continue to work with their industry partners to share knowledge and develop new services of offerings based on their DESMA research.

For the companies, the results have included a new understanding and vocabulary for discussion how design contributes to innovation internally, new or improved work processes and services. For example, one company is developing an internal research centre to be launched later this year, with the aim of becoming one of the three main pillars forming their offering (see ) Their ESR is leading the team working on this initiative, whilst completing her PhD at Copenhagen Business School, an essential partner in forming this initiative. For the university partners DESMA has contributed to developing methods and skills for designing and conducting experimental multi-disciplinary research projects in collaboration with industry, as well as for novel ways of engaging with the public for communicating research. The value of DESMA to partners, ESRs and advisory board members are summarized in the video DESMA Experiences, available on the website.

To date the project has generated 69 publications, but we expect the majority of publications to be published within the next few years. We would also like to highlight that an important outcome from the research activities has been in collaboratively reframing the important research issues within the field, also engaging the greater D + M research community in the process.

Finally, we can conclude that DESMA has indeed become platform for research in the intersections between design and management, academia and practice in Europe - and beyond. A large number of academic researchers, practitioners and students have been engaged in the discussions on the critical issues of the field and informed about the research within DESMA. The events and communication activities have generated a extensive interest in taking part of the next phase of DESMA.

In summary, we have reached out to well over 4000 people in physical meetings in 18 different countries taking all our dissemination activities into account. About a quarter of these were practitioners, about a third students and the rest senior researchers. This distribution reflects our ambition to reach out to these different audiences, aiming to bridge the divides currently inhibiting the development of the field.
We have also created a digital platform that will continue to constitute the node of this geographically dispersed network. The website has received over 37,000 visits since it was launched for the mid-term review meeting. It collects information on all partners and initiatives undertaken and features 16 videos that have generated 3,324 views together (22 February 2016 – the numbers continue to rise every day). The website will continue to develop to reflect the future identity and direction of the open and extended network.

How the DESMA network will develop in the future depends on the interests, ambitions and initiatives of this extended network. The Business & Design Lab with Gothenburg University has committed to ensuring the continuation of the on-line platform. The ESRs are committed to continue to develop their leadership roles in the field, using the DESMA Network as a platform. Monthly on-line meetings continue to be held when ESRs and members of the management team give up-dates, discuss the next phase of DESMA, and plan for future common activities. Next meeting, scheduled for March 11 will start the planning for the DESMA Forum to be held in Autumn 2016. We aim for this to be co-organized and located with one of the new members of the network that have expressed interest for this.

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