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Deborah Dawton, CEO, Design Business Association

DBA CEO on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

Earlier this year, the DBA, working closely with APDIG, submitted A Design for Brexit to HM Treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement, detailing ways in which the Chancellor should ensure that the UK design industry, a vital sector of the economy, could continue to grow and contribute to the future prosperity of the UK.

Our submission focused on three primary areas:

• Securing innovation in the tax system.
• Making design a driver for growth in a post-Brexit economy.
• Investing in infrastructure and giving design the resources to thrive.

Core to our submission was a strong call to Government to preserve as well as widen the scope of existing R&D tax relief.

And we’re pleased to see this request is being addressed.


This review of the tax credit environment for R&D in this Autumn Statement gives us the opportunity now to lobby more vigorously as we head towards the new Spring budget. We’ll be pushing again for an expansion in their scope to capture areas of investment that are currently missing from the system – we’d like to see the full scope of design’s intervention in business recognised.

This review will also allow us to put forward some solutions to overcoming the ambiguity that exists in the market about eligibility. Many more design businesses, and their clients, should be taking advantage of this tax break but currently aren’t. But why is this important for DBA members?

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Public investment in R&D is welcome and sends a positive message to business about growing their level of investment in R&D given the current caution being exercised. Enhancing our position as a world leader in innovation is critical to many DBA members working at home and globally.

Consumers don’t buy science or tech. And they don’t buy innovation. They buy what science or tech can do for them. They buy what innovation can do for them. And design is the link between what businesses are capable of doing and what consumers are interested in buying. You can have developed the most amazing bit of tech or breakthrough innovation, but without appropriate market applications and ultimately market take-up, it’ll go nowhere. Designers are the link.

Developments in science can find a new way of doing something, but without consumer changes in behaviour to accept this new paradigm, it won’t go anywhere. Designers are the link. And in a world where the quality of our experience of a brand, of a service, or of a new product determines whether we’ll buy it and use it, design, as the champion of the user, is critical to getting that right. Designers are the link between the innovation that comes out of business and their potential market of consumers.

So reviewing the tax environment for R&D with the aim of making the UK an even better place to do R&D is a good thing, because it grows the market for design. And the Government spending £23billion over the next five years on areas that are critical for productivity, which includes research and development, is a good thing because designers will need to convert those outputs into desirable and usable products and services for consumers. Not to mention that if the Government thinks this is the time to invest, renewed business confidence could see business follow their example. So we grow the market for design.

But the impact goes yet further. New products need to be manufactured and distributed. So a whole string of businesses in the supply chain are mobilised. They benefit. New products need marketing support. They need advertising support. And so the marketing and advertising supply chain is mobilised. The consumer gets what they want and that drives revenues back into business, who now see that if they want to stay ahead in ever-changing markets, they’re going to have to invest in design. And so the cycle continues.

In 2017 you can expect to see the DBA continuing to champion this cause, so that Government continues to grow its recognition of the vital role the UK design industry plays in our nation’s competitiveness.