Clive Grinyer, Design Advocate and KTP awards judge, reflects on the crucial role of design in innovation

Posted on: 23/04/2019

Good design can help deliver positive, transformative change – which is what Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are all about too.

Clive Grinyer writes:

“Innovation excites us all. Finding the new ideas that transform processes, businesses and the way we live is our constant pursuit. As a designer who has designed products, digital experiences and new services, I share that curiosity and belief that the world can and should be better. Recently getting to know and seeing the results of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) have reminded me of that belief and passion.

As part of one of the judging panels for this year’s KTP Best of the Best Awards – delivered by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) for Innovate UK – it was exciting and satisfying to hear of such great success stories from the different partnerships. Companies both historic and start up, working across traditional processes and creating new platforms, changing direction to travel down new roads or simply doing what they always did, much better. The overriding narrative of academic excellence and forward-looking companies, keen to learn and innovate together is inspiring to us all.

Innovation and design have always been closely linked, whether driving innovation from human and system insights or forming innovative ideas into new products. My career as a designer has been entirely involved with the interface between humans and the world around them. The interactions between humans, objects, software and services are the interface that helps us understand what something is for, how to use it and whether we desire it. If any of those elements is deficient, we have an ugly product, an unused mobile phone app or a failing hospital.

It won’t surprise you that designing any part of that interface requires a huge amount of collaboration, with engineers, programmers, systems designers, managers and most importantly users themselves. However, we have all heard of famous designers, such as my colleague of 20 years ago Sir Jony Ive and his work at Apple with Steve Jobs who are individually credited with incredibly successful innovation.

But in this century design has become more humble. The role of the individual designer or charismatic entrepreneurs is disappearing. I celebrate this change as I believe it represents a realisation that design embraces everyone and that we all have a role in it – design is an act of collaboration on a gigantic scale.

Although design is often perceived as superficial and something layered on after all the difficult decisions have been made, that’s a recipe for design failure. Design is a methodology, a human centred approach and a process of thinking before doing that impact on strategy as much as delivery. Design is going on all around us, in every decision we make that has an impact on people. Design is not an option; it’s just not always done consciously, or very well.

Bringing design and technology together is not always easy. Cultures are different, assumptions are made, and roles are defended. From the quantitative and qualitative, emotional and functional, creativity and feasibility can seem to be at odds. But when they work together, allowing each their moment at the right time and allowing big thinking before detailed doing, the results are transformative.

What I celebrate in the KTP Awards is the power of combining new ideas from an investment in expertise and knowledge with a culture of curiosity and enthusiasm for innovation. This collaboration is what creates change and transformation.

This is not a world where we can afford to coast and be comfortable with incremental change. Transformational change, realising innovation and embedding new knowledge from science is essential. At the heart of transformation is collaboration and co-creation, working together between science and industry, process and culture, technology and humanity. These partnerships will help us continue to invent and innovate to tackle not just the problems of our costs and operations, but the big prizes of financial, social and environmental balance.

With the KTP Awards, it’s inspiring to celebrate these innovative companies, world leading academics and inspirational individuals who bring the new to what we do in the true spirit of collaboration to show us what success can look like.”

Dr Steve Welch, Director at KTN

“We firmly believe in the transformative power of design, in its broadest sense, to bring about positive change; and we welcome Clive’s input which echoes our mission, through the KTP programme, to build collaborations that create impact, engender a culture of innovation and embed new knowledge and thinking.  The KTN’s own Design in Innovation team furthers this commitment, working with companies of all sizes to find partners, funding and innovative expertise”.

About Clive Grinyer

For more than three decades Clive Grinyer has led innovation teams developing human centred solutions for the modern world.

Listed in Creative Review’s Top 50 Creative Leaders 2018, Clive advises organisations on design, works closely with the Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office, and teaches design at the Royal College of Art and Central St Martins.  After heading innovation projects at Cisco, he was Director of Service Design at Barclays Bank; has led award-winning design teams for Orange, Samsung and IDEO; and founded the design consultancy Tangerine along with Apple design chief Jony Ive.

Clive is an acknowledged expert in design thinking, digital and technology innovation and customer experience, speaks at national and international conferences, writes articles, and has published the book “Smart Design” on design and technology. He was a trustee of the Royal Society of Arts and is Visiting Professor at Glasgow School of Art.

About KTP and the KTP Best of the Best Awards 2019

Celebrating the very best Knowledge Transfer Partnership teams, individuals, innovations and partnerships, the KTP Best of the Best Awards have been hotly contested this year, with nominations reflecting the exceptional diversity and quality of the KTP programme.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships enable unique three-way collaborations between UK organisations of any size, an academic team and a talented graduate who acts as the Project Manager. Together they work on a specific innovation project with the aim of realising the project objectives and embedding new knowledge to bring about transformative change. The KTP Best of the Best Awards shine a spotlight on the most successful of these special partnerships – details of the categories and finalists are here. Winners will be announced at an Invitation-only event in London’s Royal Society of Chemistry on May 2nd where both Clive Grinyer and Innovate UK’s Interim Executive Chair, Dr Ian Campbell, will give keynotes.

Applications for funding Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are open throughout the year and enjoy a high success rate. If you think a KTP could benefit your organisation and would like to find out more, click here. You’ll find more information about the programme and details of how to contact our expert Knowledge Transfer Advisers.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are delivered by the Knowledge Transfer Network and funded by UKRI through Innovate UK as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.


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