Name / Title
Case Study Region
Övre Norrland, Sweden
County of Västerbotten
Main activity / focus
Supporting business development through establishing a network for industrial design
Target beneficiaries / market
SMEs in sectors such as industry, service, tourism and public.
Current Funding source(s)
Financing comes from:
Project owner is ALMI Företagspartner Nord(business support organisation owned by the state and regional public actors)
Design Västerbotten is a three year long project. The project owner Almi plans to apply for funding for two additional years and would like to make the project activities part of their ordinary activities after that.
In 1989 the Swedish Industrial Design Foundation was initiated by the Swedish government, they in turn initiated the project Design Västerbotten. It was initiated at national level as national actors realised that Västerbotten and some other counties did not work with these issues. Today Design Västerbotten has developed to become the largest project of the ones initiated in the wake of the government proposal. Both municipalities and private companies have contributed to the financing of the project.
In general Almi focuses on developing of both new and already established businesses. They see networking as a tool for business development.
The aim of Design Väserbotten is to help make SMEs in the region more competitive and better equipped when entering new markets. It is to be a support making firms ready to start exporting products. As such, the initiative is a first step towards establishing external contacts for the firms. In addition Almi has come to develop contacts with actors in Finland and are about to establish activities common with Norwegian actors to both promote industrial design and promote exchange of experience between firms in the three countries (focus here is on the tourism sector). Through the project Kvarken Global Business a Finnish-Swedish seminar and design competition has been arranged.
Most firms involved in Design Västerbotten are SMEs either active in the tourism sector or industry. Since most of the small and medium sized firms in the region are not aware of benefits of industrial design Almi has been actively approaching the firms and arranged meetings with them. Almi found out that firms where mainly interested in taking part if the project leader had paid them a visit, hence the work at Almi includes a lot of travelling within the county. To compensate for the location of the Almi offices along the coast they make regular visits to the rural inland.
According to Almi a comparatively large share of the SMEs in the inland of Västerbotten have showed an interest in taking part in the project. According to the project leader Christina Friberg “The firms in the inland have a more though market situation with longer distances and seem more offensive, they want to take part in the project to stand out in the crowd” (Interview with Christina Friberg, project leader Design Västerbotten, 2010-12-13)
Design Västerbotten builds a network of SMEs interested in learning more about industrial design and developing own ways of using it. They arrange workshops, meetings and development programmes. Firms meet, exchange experiences and build relations. Some relations have deepened and have the potential of becoming long lasting. So far the initiative has not resulted in any new business contracts. The aim is to see results here to though.
To develop a more independent network that could live on after the end of the project firms have been invited to become members of the network by paying a fee (compared to previous situation where membership was free of charge). Today 41 businesses are members. This has resulted in a private co-funding of about 100 000 €.
The ambition is to attract firms that are really interested and to see deeper and more long lasting collaborations develop. To encourage this firms cooperating will for example be given the opportunity to use the service of an industrial designer jointly.
Christina Friberg, Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org