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By Chuan Li  & Pau Rausell (UVEG)

In the first round of Designscapes Open Call, we received a total of 263 applications, among which 50 stand-out proposals that qualified to receive a €5,000 grant to conduct feasibility study for their project.

Just as important was the overall broad participation and active engagement of various sectors of society in the practices of Design Enabled Innovation (DEI) in Europe.

Here are some features of feasibility study applications that offer key insight for understanding DEI activities throughout Europe.

  • DEIs are scattered overall but high-quality DEIs are clustered in several urban centres. Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece and the UK are the five countries with most applications; meanwhile the Netherlands, Italy, the UK, Denmark and Greece are the five countries with most applications selected. Of these, a notable number of funded projects are located in four main metropolitans – Amsterdam, London, Milan, and Rotterdam – which are also important urban centres for excellence in industry, education, science, culture and entrepreneurship at regional or even global level.
  • Business and Academia are the two dominant players of DEI. About half of the applications come from business sectors throughout Europe, but academia also plays a vital role in promoting DEI in Southern, Central and Western Europe. Instead, we have noted that government has fallen behind other sectors in almost all regions of Europe.
  • Small and mid-sized teams (less than 10 members) constitute the majority of applicants in all regions of Europe. This is partly because SMEs are the target group our call aimed at, and partly because large enterprises usually have sufficient financial resources to support internal innovation so as not to seek external funding.
  • Male and female are engaged in DEI practices in roughly equal measure, although there might be a slight difference depending on sectors, namely, there are more male practitioners than female ones in the business sector whilst more female practitioners are involved in civil society.
  • Product and service innovation is the major form of DEI, meanwhile, marketing and organisational innovations also witness the importance in some countries, especially in Denmark. Yet, different from a meaning-centric proposition submitted by Roberto Verganti, most of the proposals identified significant changes in both function and meaning involved in the process of their projects.
  • Urban ecosystems play a vital role in facilitating DEI. Social activism and integration is the most responsive evaluated dimension. Besides, local facilities and services, connection to / inspiration from local cultural activities, events and institutions, as well as support from business associations and networks also are viewed as important factors supporting DEIs.
  • Design toolkits support user-oriented innovation. Co-creation workshop is the most popular tool adopted at various phases of the design-thinking approach, followed by scenarios, personas, and stakeholder map, among others. Yet, business model is the most adopted tool at the phrase of scaling the innovation.
  • Low quality of life is the most cited problem that applicants aim to address and urban-based, people-oriented actions are popular measures to take. More than half of applications give one of their priorities to the topic of “urban space quality”, followed by “people’s participation”, “sense of belonging and community identity”, “Urban Transformation”, and “personal wellbeing”.