Design Management Academy 2017 Hong Kong

Track 1.a The Interplay between Science, Technology and Design

Cabirio Cautela, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
*Claudio Dell’Era, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Stefano Magistretti, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Åsa Öberg, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Roberto Verganti, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
* contact:

Design has recently gained much attention among practitioners and scholars as a source of innovation. Firms are increasingly investing in design and involving design firms in their innovation processes. Yet, the role of design in innovation and competition remains a rather young (preparadigmatic) area, with blurred boundaries and often unclear or contrasting perspectives. The track “The Interplay between Science, Technology and Design” aims at exploring the contribution provided by design in exploiting the potentialities embedded in new and emerging technologies. Traditionally, especially in technology-intensive industries, design has been seen as playing a minor role: indeed, mainstream theories of innovation consider technology as a main driver of change, with design following up for creating a user friendly interface or as a source of differentiation through form, when feature differentiation created through technology has run its course.

Recent developments however give design a more central role in models of innovation. The focus is in particular on how design can actually play a major role early on in the innovation cycle. At a technology’s inception, especially when a breakthrough technology arises, design is a way to conceive breakthrough applications. In fact, when a breakthrough technology emerges, it embeds many potential applications: some are immediate and promoted by those who have initially guided technological development, and are typically aimed at substituting old technologies to improve existing performances; but there are other applications require imagining new patterns of use, new needs, new experiences, which is a typical creative contribution of design. Apple, is a typical example of a company that has combined design early on with breakthrough technologies to create unprecedented applications. Design can even move upstream into R&D to steer the development of technology and science towards applications with greater value and need. Indeed, some pioneering experiments, promoted by the EU and other national governments (e.g. in the UK) promote the joint collaboration of designers with technologists, and even scientists, to foster the development of technologies that are more socially and economically more promising. Designers can therefore bring into R&D laboratories a more people-centric focus and new creative processes. The purpose of the track is to discuss this and other perspectives at the interplay between science, technology and design.

Indicative References

Buganza, T., Dell’Era, C., Pellizzoni, E., Trabucchi, D., & Verganti, R. (2015). Unveiling the potentialities provided by new technologies: A process to pursue technology epiphanies in the smartphone app industry. Creativity and Innovation Management, 24(3), 391–414. doi:10.1111/caim.12141

Geels, F. W. (2004). From sectoral systems of innovation to socio-technical systems. Research Policy, 33(6–7), 897–920. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2004.01.015

MacKenzie, D. A., & Wajcman, J. (1985). The social shaping of technology: How the refrigerator got its hum. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Norman, D. A., & Verganti, R. (2014). Incremental and radical innovation: Design research vs. technology and meaning change. Design Issues, 30(1), 78–96. doi:10.1162/desi_a_00250

Verganti, R. (2009). Design-driven innovation: Changing the rules of competition by radically innovating what things mean. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.