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Background

Based in Thessaloniki, KEPA (Business and Cultural Development Centre) is the Intermediate Managing Authority of innovation programmes for SMEs, on behalf of Greek Ministry of Competitiveness and Development for Central and Western Macedonia. In the programming period 2007-2013, KEPA allocated €612 million to Greek businesses in the energy, construction, manufacturing, tourism, environment and professional services sectors. Through European initiatives such as SEE – Sharing Experience Europe’ and BEDA – Bureau of European Design Associations, KEPA embraced design as force for innovation and made it a main pillar of its investment activities. Consequently, design was included in the Smart Specialisation Strategy for Central Macedonia as well as the national funding scheme for the Ministry of Development.  

Support of design and creativity is an activity that will be used to achieve the goals the Specific Objective 3: Creation and validation of an Innovation Support System.”
 Smart Specialisation Strategy for Central Macedonia, 2015

Application of the design methodology for new or improved product, service, operating system or organisational process up, to the amount of €5,000. The design methodology comprises 5 stages, for each of which are used specialised tools. These stages are: 1. Defining the challenge, 2. Developing ideas, 3. Prototyping, 4. Testing and 5. Implementing and evaluating”.
Call for Proposals Guidebook, “Upgrading micro and small businesses for the development of their capacities to new markets” Programme, 2016

Joining Design for Europe was a concrete opportunity for KEPA to deepen its knowledge and implement the objectives of the Smart Specialisation Strategy and the national programmes that will include design as eligible costs in beneficiaries’ project budgets.

SMEs struggle to separate thinking about design as merely product development from design thinking on a strategic level. Through Design for Europe we have been able to develop an effective response to this question using data, testimonials and case studies

Angeliki Barakli, EU Department Project Manager, KEPA, Greece

When we engage with businesses and promote design for innovation they often ask “Why should I hire a designer and not a management consultant?” SMEs struggle to separate thinking about design as merely product development from design thinking on a strategic level. Through Design for Europe we have been able to develop an effective response to this question using data, testimonials and case studies.” 
Angeliki Barakli, EU Department Project Manager, KEPA, Greece

How Design for Europe helped

During the course of Design for Europe, KEPA hosted events in Greece and in Brussels to foster collaboration between actors at home and international experts.

Meetings have taken place with the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, Greek MEPs, Athens Development and Destination Management Authority, City of Thessaloniki, Alexander Innovation Zone, MIT Enterprise Forum Greece, HeBAN (Hellenic Business Angels Network), Region of Central Macedonia, Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, and the Managing Authority of European Territorial Cooperation Programmes to advance the case for design in Greece. For example, in October 2015, KEPA arranged a meeting with two Greek MEPs to canvas support for KEPA’s ambitions to establish the Hellenic Design Centre. 

KEPA’s participation in Design for Europe as well as other EU networks has had a major leverage effect to advance the use of design in Greece. The insight gathered across Design for Europe’s vast network helped us to identify critical success factors and pitfall when developing the design pilot programme for SMEs as well as the business case for the Hellenic Design Centre.”
Christina Skoubridou, EU Department officer, KEPA, Greece

No one is downplaying the economic situation in Greece. However, it is in times of crisis that innovation often flourishes. We have a chance to do something differently.

Simon Bensasson, Member of the Thessaloniki City Council, Advisor of the Municipality of Thessaloniki for Entrepreneurship, Greece

The commitment to design was further reinforced by the business community at the gathering of the Innovation ID conference in April 2016 in Thessaloniki. This event brought together the most influential decision-makers in the region to showcase examples of design-driven innovation already happening in Central Macedonia and across Greece. 

No one is downplaying the economic situation in Greece. However, it is in times of crisis that innovation often flourishes. We have a chance to do something differently, to support companies and the public sector to be innovative using design approaches and putting the user or citizen at the heart of the process.
Simon Bensasson, Member of the Thessaloniki City Council, Advisor of the Municipality of Thessaloniki for Entrepreneurship, Greece

Greece has major strengths in design but also major weaknesses. Design is not part of the standard lexicon of small business in Greece, yet there are pockets of highly innovative design activity going on such as the work of BrainBox creating the Easybike system for bike sharing. There is fertile ground for design in Greece.”
Dimitris Dimitriadis, Business Development Director, BrainBox, Greece

I would like you to know that it was a great pleasure for me to attend the Innovation ID conference. That was an ideal opportunity to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead and find effective and innovative ways to overcome them. I was also impressed with how professional the follow up was. It's something not common in Greece and I am delighted that KEPA is a pioneer!
Christos Koutousis, Head of Extroversion Programme, CERTH - Centre for Research & Technology, Hellas

Βy exchanging best practice with stakeholders across Europe, KEPA identified two pressing activities to achieve through Design for Europe – establishing the Hellenic Design Centre and implementing the first design pilot for SMEs in Greece. In this way, design would be a formalised part of the Innovation Support System. 
 

Outcomes

  • €5,000 to help SMEs integrate design methodologies
  • 8 priority sectors created out of small enterprises
  • 3 Design for Europe events held in Greece over past three years

The expertise within the Design for Europe network has been invaluable for enabling KEPA to instigate its ambitions of establishing the first Hellenic Design Centre.

By sharing best practices from existing partners and other European design centres (particularly the Danish Design Centre, Design Council, Estonian Design Centre and Design Flanders) KEPA has been able to identify the critical success factors and pitfalls in setting up the HDC. KEPA considers that the establishment of the HDC would significantly advance the use of design across the private and public sectors in Greece. European counterparts tend to be almost fully funded by government and receive public funding to conduct their activities.

Alternatively, KEPA is working on a business model for HDC that will ensure it is self-sustainable in the long-term. Nevertheless, some seed funding would be required from public and third sector sources to start operations. Ideally and similarly to EU counterparts, the HDC would benefit from a range funding sources including regional, national and EU funds as well as commercial income. The business plan for the HDC is currently under review by private and public investors.

The incubator will nurture design talent and enable start-ups to launch new products and services creating more Greek success stories. The HDC moves us one step closer to the wider ambition of a national design policy.

Nikos Efthymiadis, Entrepreneur, Chairman of KEPA, Greece

 
“There are two sides to the problem in Greece, both a lack in demand – design readiness in companies – and a lack of supply – trained designers. The Hellenic Design Centre will be established to tackle both issues. The incubator will nurture design talent and enable start-ups to launch new products and services creating more Greek success stories. The HDC moves us one step closer to the wider ambition of a national design policy.” 
Nikos Efthymiadis, Entrepreneur, Chairman of KEPA, Greece

A significant breakthrough occurred in 2016 when the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, after having participated in many dedicated workshops and consultations with KEPA, recognised the added value of design and decided to include it as an eligible cost to a next call for proposals targeting SMEs. For the first time, Greek SMEs have the opportunity to access €5,000 to perform a design diagnostic and develop a set of actions as part of a more holistic business plan. The aim would be for the SMEs to integrate design methodologies into their core business operations, particularly at a management level and subsequently to develop in-house design capabilities or invest in external design expertise. An indicator of success for the programme would be the number of SMEs that using budget for design. 

“The challenges for design in Greece have been compounded by the crisis. The economic downturn has obviously affected the budgets for companies to investment in design. Therefore KEPA has been engaging with the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism and now design has been included in a new funding programme for SMEs to access up to €5,000 to hire a designer.”
Dimitris Kaboukos, EU Department officer, KEPA, Greece

The action aims to strengthen micro and small enterprises in the 8 EPANEK (the 2014-2020 Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship, Innovation’) priority sectors. These sectors are agrofood/food industry, energy, environment, ICT, logistics, health, materials-constructions and cultural industries. Through the specific action, SMEs will upgrade their competitive position by investing in technological, organisational and business modernisation or remodelling their products and services. Beneficiaries’ projects should be clearly targeted to improve the quality of products and services or create new ones, which should cover specific market needs. 

To include design as an eligible cost in a national programme is a ‘pilot’ action for us and a good outcome will make us do even more. We all know that sometimes, it is very difficult to develop new things. But during these difficult times for our country, we are glad to have discovered the design thinking methodology, a very promising tool for our SMEs. It is also a challenge to raise awareness of design thinking and convince companies of its effectiveness. So, the opportunity is here, things are finally starting to move and we all believe that the outcome of all our efforts will be significant.
Stava Angelidi, General Secretariat of the Governmental Work Coordination, Greece

 

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