Big brands reveal blueprint for success

A CREATIVE initiative to foster dynamic new businesses will focus this week on building a design-led economy.

Representatives from Harris Tweed Hebrides are among the speakers. Picture: Jane Barlow
Representatives from Harris Tweed Hebrides are among the speakers. Picture: Jane Barlow

The first Scottish Design Summit will be held on Thursday in Dundee, with speakers representing some of the world’s biggest brands.

They include engine maker Rolls-Royce, drinks giant ­Diageo and digital music service Spotify. Also attending will be Harris Tweed Hebrides, the traditional island cloth manufacturer with a strong and growing reputation in the fashion industry.

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The summit is being hosted by Design in Action (DiA), the knowledge exchange hub set up in June 2012 and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

DiA aims to help firms develop ideas by putting design at the centre of the business. DiA director Georgina Follett said this does not involve packaging or marketing, but how a product comes to exist and why it works.

“If you put design within your business and at the core of business, you can really drive innovation,” she said. “That is what all of the large companies do.”

The sold-out event at the Malmaison Hotel aims to illustrate how design can transform business performance. The majority of the 130 delegates represent smaller firms who will be given advice on how to access help when incorporating design into their operations.

DiA’s main remit is to assist small and micro companies, with a particular emphasis on those operating in food, health, ICT, sport and the rural economies.

“We very much want to introduce design to new markets,” Follett said.

DiA does this through a series of “chiasma” workshops (named after the exchange of genetic material) which put designers and academics together with small firms and individuals with new business ideas. Participants can then pitch for up to £20,000 to prototype their concept.

Six of these innovation events have been held so far around the country, leading to “a number” of businesses in the development pipeline. One which has already gone public is Beer52, craft brewing’s equivalent of the wine club.

Launched in August 2013, Beer52 was set up by Edinburgh-based James Brown after he won a £20,000 grant at an event earlier that year.

An initial Groupon offering broke the discount website’s UK record by selling out in 48 minutes, while a crowd-funding drive on the Angels Den platform raised £100,000 with 22 days to spare. Beer52 is now the UK’s largest and fastest-growing craft beer club, shipping out a case of eight micro-brews for £24 per month.