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New business and design collaborations ahead for Northumbria

6th July 2017

Northumbria University, Newcastle has cemented its reputation for design excellence and innovation after becoming the first academic institution in the UK to become a forum member of the Design Management Institute (DMI).

Bringing together design and business leaders, educators, researchers and practitioners from around the world, the DMI aims to explore how design and industry can work together to create new innovations which could transform business.

Northumbria is now one of just a handful of universities to join the Institute, sharing the platform with the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Philadelphia University.

Plans are now in place to host a DMI event at Northumbria’s School of Design next year, which it is expected will attract major international businesses, as well as regional partners.

Mersha Aftab is a Lecturer in Innovation at Northumbria and said: “Joining the DMI will allow us to continue in our work connecting businesses with design practitioners and researchers and showing how they can work together to produce truly innovative results.

“As a design school we are business focussed and industry led and hosting a DMI event in Newcastle will allow us to reach out to new, international partners, as well as building on the strong relationships we have built with business in the North East.”

The focus for the event will be ‘Be Local, Think Global’, with plans to include a variety of speakers discussing a range of topics.

Academics from Northumbria have already taken part in a number of DMI events, with five new papers presented at the Academic Design Management Institute Conference in Boston, last year.

Among them was a case study showcasing how design research meets design practice, entitled The Growth Department: How Industrial Design, Strategic Marketing and Engineering Combine to Drive Innovation at Parker Hannifin Corp, by Neil McPherson, Matthew Leivesly, David O’Leary and Ian Hewitt.

Northumbria School of Design has a strong history of collaborating with businesses on live design projects – giving students real world experience and allowing businesses to access creative thinking and the latest research.

One of the University’s longest running partnerships is with Unilever, with staff and students from Northumbria’s School of Design working alongside Unilever’s research and development teams over the last 12 years to help establish new and innovative ways of meeting the company’s sustainability targets in relation to packaging, water-use and energy.

Northumbria University has also established a Responsible Innovation Practice Group that aims at create positive change in the world. Through generative practice-based research this group works with organisations facing big challenges. Creating one team, clients work directly with the energy and creativity of the students and the analytical expertise of academics to use design and multidisciplinary thinking. The group examines their stance and strategic objectives by considering their possible and plausible future offers and the impact these might have on society and the important issues we all face.


This work contributes to the University’s strategic initiative to bring together academics from across different departments and faculties to share knowledge and expertise to find innovative solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges. Researchers within the multi-disciplinary theme IDEATE are exploring how creative design can be put into practice to realise and explore possible futures, and, in turn, foster innovation. To find out more visit

The Northumbria DMI event is expected to take place in summer 2018. For more information about the School of Design visit

The academic papers presented by Northumbria academics at the Academic Design Management Institute Conference in Boston, last year.were:

  • Aftab, Mersha, English, Stuart, Lievesley, Matthew, Antonio De Filho, Marcos,Agustine Rusli, Helen, Smith, Penelopeand Hunt, Pete (2016) Design Entrepreneurship in Innovation.In: 20th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference Inflection Point: Design Research Meets Design Practice Boston, 28th - 29th July 2016, Boston, MA.
  • Bailey, Mark and Smith, Neil (2016)Making it Work; Integrated Academic Practice. In: 20th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference Inflection Point: Design Research Meets Design Practice Boston, 28-29 July 2016, Boston, MA.
  • Fridlington, Lauren, Mckay, Laura,Spencer, Nick and Watson, Bruce (2016)The Co-creation design framework. In: Academic Design Management Conference ADMC16, 28th - 29th July, Boston, USA.
  • Gaith, Kawar and Aftab, Mersha (2016)The Value of Design in an Enterprise Cloud Solution. In: 20th DMI:Academic Design Management Conference, 28th - 29th July 2016, Boston, USA.
  • Gribbin, John, Young, Robert and Aftab, Mersha (2016) Towards a holistic framework of design competence. In: 19th Academic Design Management Conference, 28th - 29th July, Boston, USA.


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