PROUD Design Innovation Hubs Research Visit to Belgium

Three Design Management students elected to work with the PROUD project to design a Modular Business Plan for Design Innovation Hubs for their final Masters thesis. The outcomes of their research will benefit PROUD partners who have invested in the creation of Design Innovation Hubs for their region and are seeking ways to make the hubs financially sustainable in the long term.

Each of the PROUD hubs vary in their service offer such as which can include some or all off the following to name but a few available services: the use of a Fab Lab with a laser cutter and 3D printers, network membership, space hire, workshops and support to develop collaborative projects within the network and much more. The student’s project aims to research a diverse range of Design Innovation Hubs in order to find new insights and effective ways of generating revenue that could be applied in the context of each hub.

The PROUD Design Manager and students travelled to Belgium to interview two Design Innovation Hubs in June. The first was MadBrussels – a centre to promote and support local talent within the fashion and design industries. The second visit was to Buda Lab in Kortrijk, one of the PROUD partners who have invested in a Fab Lab.The students each give their perspective on the trip to Belgium below.

Pei-Ju Chen writes:

I feel very honored that Lancaster University can give us the opportunity to participate in international projects, which not only can increase international perspectives, but also can apply our knowledge in real cases, so that it can help us produce more practical research results and achieve our goals.

Although we only stayed two days in Belgium, mutual interaction and practical experience allow us to have better understandings of the current situation of Design Innovation Hubs, which is also useful to clarify some complex questions. For example, through the environment observation and face to face interview, we see how the creative economy can be practiced, which way can deliver core values of creativity, who plays an important role to promote innovation, exploring business opportunities, so it is good to connect our research with existing business operation.

With this experience sharing, we realise that the creative economy is no longer just a slogan, but it can be achieved through practical actions including hosting events and exhibitions to promote designers' ideas (MAD Brussels) or using Fab Lab to deliver producing knowledge (Buda Lab). Therefore, no matter using which way to enhance the better creative value, it is believed that through this collaborative networks can drive more quickly knowledge exchange and generate long-term economic benefits.

Li-Lin Liu writes:

On the 11th-12th of June, in order to get some data for our research project, we travelled to Belgium for two days trip to interview people who work in Design Innovation Hubs. In the beginning, we were worried that two days was too short, we don’t have enough time to get the information we need, fortunately, all the people we met in Belgium are very friendly and do their best to answer all our questions.

In the first day, we met Esther in MADBrussels. From the interview with Esther, I understand how they support designers in Brussels by coaching them in entering design markets, that also promote Belgium design. In the second day, we visit Buda Lab and DesignRegio Kortrijk, and interview Fanny and Pieter. They showed us how they operate one building as a multifunction space (it can used for exhibition, workshop, and also provide making facilities), and use these different offering to promote another offering.

This trip is a very valuable and interesting experience. We got many important and unique insights from interviewers, which we could never have gained if we didn’t meet them in person, and it really helped our research.

The only pity is we do not have time to enjoy Belgium chocolate, the train we took was delay for almost an hour due to mechanical problem, so we got very rush on our way home, this is also give us a lesson that “never arrange the schedule too tight, always left some time for unexpected things”.

Zhang Junru writes:

It was quite an interesting experience of this Belgium travel. Though different language cause a little bit difficult to find the destination, we met Esther (MadBrussels), Fanny and Peter (DesignKortrijk & Buda Lab) on time - at last!

They kindly answered all of our questions, and gave many more ideas for Design Innovation Hubs. The information they provided really helped our research a lot. For instance, Peter gave some ideas about Fab Lab from a practitioner point of views. This leads us to critical thinking about our literature reviews.

In addition, there are lots of differences compared with the desk research and what we saw during the visit. Before the trip, I did not know MadBrussels built its brand in its region in just two years. It seems it is a big local organisation. This achievement is a good example for us to study. As well as the large space of Buda Lab, it give us more areas to think about which kinds of business models it might fit within etc. I so appreciate what I got from this exciting travel.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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