This paper aims to understand the effectiveness of design-led methods and approaches to support small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) with innovation, and how their needs are fulfilled by support instruments through investigating the activities of “design-led innovation centres”(DICs) that have been established in the UK. These Centres promote design practice and facilitate design driven methods to improve innovation processes within SMEs. This study examines the content, motivations, methods, procedures and general principles of these centres to find out what appears valuable and what does not seem useful within a facilitated innovation process. The data referred to in this paper were collected through a series of interviews undertaken with individuals representing DICs, SMEs, design consultants and government agencies. This paper presents several results derived from different experiences and the opinions of respondents. It was found that DICs offer a process-oriented approach to help SMEs to identify their problems and encourage them to build an innovation culture for continuous growth, whereas SMEs have a product oriented approach for pursuing innovation. This mind-set difference affects how the value is perceived and influences their communication and expectations. The findings of this study are as follows; tangible outputs such as detailed, well-tailored design briefs are considered as more effective; secondly, deeper interventions through long-term partnership help embed design into company culture. Finally, for the effectiveness of DIC support, having established criteria to select which SMEs to work with is important. These criteria may include financial readiness, curiosity, motivation and commitment for innovation. These findings may inform innovation support programmes and help improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of their provision.
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