Design Engineering

The ROI of Design

By Arlene Gould and Tim Poupore   

General Innovation OEM

New SME advisory service targets innovation RODI

According to a recent US study called "The Innovation Imperative in Manufacturing", Canada ranks 14th on an index of 110 countries measuring the inputs relative to the outputs in the innovation process. That ranking is respectable, but not competitive. What is more interesting is the fact that Canada is a big spender on inputs (R&D funding, tax credits, education, innovation policies) but doesn’t get as high a score on innovation impacts or outputs (IP generation, commercialization and export success, economic growth) as countries such as US, Japan, North Korea or even Luxembourg.

One reason we are not seeing that impact in our commercialization results is our failure to use strategic design and to involve designers in every stage of the innovation process. Ontario is Canada’s manufacturing base and also a leading design hub with the third largest number of designers in the workforce of any city in North America. Harnessing this creative problem-solving ability to meet triple bottom line (economic, social, environmental) objectives is the focus of the work of Ontario’s Design Industry Advisory Committee (DIAC), a cross-disciplinary think tank and design research group established by the City of Toronto in 2001.


Now, DIAC is launching the Design Advisory Service, a design support program to help manufacturers and other growth-oriented SMEs improve their innovation outcomes.

The objectives of this program are twofold. The first is to expand the use of strategic design in every stage of the product development process. The second is to maximize the value of that investment and deliver breakthrough results.

In other words, the aim is to increase the Return on Design Investment or RODI for participating companies. The Design Advisory Service is being supported by the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).

Here’s how the service works. In its pilot year, the Design Industry Advisory Service will focus on SMEs in the Greater Toronto Area and will draw potential participants from existing SME clients of the IRAP program. Other SMEs who meet the project criteria will also be considered. There are six steps in the program:

1. Design Seminar. DIAC is delivering a series of design seminars to introduce the IRAP Industrial Technical Advisors and potential SME client participants to the value of integrating design with business strategy and adopting an Integrated Design Process in product development and commercialization.


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