The bridge builder

Design research in the Netherlands has been given a major opportunity. For four years large sums of money are being invested to involve and include the creative industries in a large number of projects. These all focus on nursing care and productivity from a broad perspective. The hope is that the research will improve society on both the social and economic level.

The lift from the ground floor of deWitteDame (the White Lady), a white, modernistic industrial building a couple of stones' throw away from the railway station in Eindhoven, takes me directly to the third floor and into Design Academy Eindhoven, the most prestigious design academy in the Netherlands. Throughout the years, the academy's exhibitions and student presentations have had an unusual appeal. They have exuded humanism, often been playfully poetic, and been considerably more conceptual and exploratory than in Sweden.

Training in design theory has also been well developed at the academy. In contrast, regular design research has not been the focus of particular attention – at least, not before now. Before CRISP.

First major venture

CRISP stands for Creative Industry Scientific Programme, and is a major government-led investment in design research in the Netherlands. Design Academy Eindhoven, together with the industrial design departments at the technical universities of Eindhoven, Delft and the University of Twente in Enschede plus 60 partners (companies, not-for-profit organisations, municipal authorities, etc.), will develop and establish a scientifically based knowledge infrastructure focusing on how design can play a strategic role in the development of a better and more sustainable society. Or, to put it more simply, to link design research and creative producers of both products and services.

"This is the first time our government has made a major investment into the design field and the creative industries," explains Bas Raijmakers, head of research for the academy's CRISP programme.

"Previously, they only funded chemical or technical research and big, well-established companies. But in recent years the discussions have also focused on the fact that creative innovations can contribute to general social development within a larger economic context. And that we must reach out with new knowledge to creative people, and, before doing so, make a serious effort to find out how this can be done."

Raijmakers says that the inspiration for CRISP comes mainly from the UK. Nowadays even people at the governmental level in the Netherlands are saying that it pays to use more design methodology at an early stage of the development process. Until very recently, design was regarded as being mostly about surface – not wholly unexpectedly – and largely about giving form to an already well-planned concept. But the CRISP project demonstrates that the politicians have discovered 'design thinking' and that design can also be strategically important to the whole process of constructing society.

Raijmakers is especially fond of user-driven design solutions. He gained his master's degree in Social Sciences (Cultural Studies) and then started

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SVID, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation | Visit: Söder Mälarstrand 29, 3 tr | Mail: Söder Mälarstrand 57, 118 25 Stockholm | info@svid.se I +46 (0)8 406 84 40

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SVID, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation | Visit: Söder Mälarstrand 29, 3 tr | Mail: Söder Mälarstrand 57, 118 25 Stockholm | info@svid.se I +46 (0)8 406 84 40