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Britain 'must invest in design skills' to drive forward in Industry 4.0, manufacturing experts warn

New research into the use of design in the manufacturing sector has uncovered a lack of skills, a desire for diversification and a need for investment at grassroots level.
Building on 2014's Leading Business by Design research, Design Council commissioned in-depth analysis of design's impact on the automotive and aerospace sectors. These new reports form part of a suite of 'deep-dive' industrial sector studies that it hopes will further 'demystify' design in the manufacturing sector.

Design Council Chief Executive John Mathers explained the importance of this research: "Evidence suggests the value of design is becoming increasingly recognised, even in industries that you would not normally associate design with. However, this is perhaps not that surprising when you see the data - design is creating thousands of jobs, exponentially improving the UK's export markets and creating almost £9m an hour for the UK economy.

"In an increasingly competitive market, we believe that design can be a key differentiator. The right skills pipeline from the design sector into manufacturing is crucial. In order to balance the economy, the government must continue to invest in the design industry and education system, from the ground up."

Manufacturing is integral to the UK's economy. According to EEF's latest research, the UK is currently the 11th largest manufacturing nation in the world. It makes up 11% of the UK's Gross Value Added (GVA), more than half of its exports and directly employs 2.6m people.

Lee Hopley, Chief Economist at EEF, said: "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. Design skills, recruitment and training can be the fuel that drives the manufacturing engine."

Design Council's new research explores how design methods and tools are being used to drive positive change within manufacturing businesses and their supply chains. The research argues that incorporating design earlier and more deeply into the manufacturing process will futureproof the sector for the imminent 'fourth industrial revolution', or 'Industry 4.0'.
Participants spoke of concerns over a growing skills gap, a need for more effective multidisciplinary collaboration and to be more forward-thinking when developing future talent. At the Summit, Beverley Nielsen, Director of Corporate Affairs for Birmingham City University, will discuss how education of designers need to change to compete on a global scale:

"We see design approaches as critical to developing what is sometimes referred to as 'T-shaped' people, able to think both broadly and deeply and bring technical solutions while being highly creative in applied contexts. Such people are seen as essential in helping to develop the 'thinking doers' that businesses are telling us they are looking for in solving current and next generation business challenges."

The research also reveals details of how manufacturers are using design in practice, such as automotive companies exploiting advances in information technology to meet customer demands for greater mobile connectivity, while in the highly-regulated aerospace sector, companies have turned to service design to improve the whole experience of flight.

The Summit will scrutinise predicted trends in manufacturing, and how new technology can present both opportunity and risk for British manufacturing. Paul Priestman, Co-founding Director of design and brand experience consultancy PriestmanGoode, argues that in order to keep pace in an increasingly competitive marketplace, British manufacturing needs designers with the ability to quickly adapt:

"Rapid developments in science, technology and materials are changing the way products are designed and manufactured. It's crucial British manufacturing has the skills and interdisciplinary framework to adapt. Changes in the broader manufacturing ecosystem mean designers increasingly need to develop a wider skillset."

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