Here's a flash. James Dyson, the inventor of many things, including a best-selling vacuum cleaner, is establishing a new school for design innovation in Bath, England. This is very big news. Note the age of the students--and the fact that the school itself will be innovatively designed to foster creativity and innovation.
Here is the PR release:
"The Dyson School of Design Innovation: UK’s first National Centre of Excellence for design, engineering and enterprise.
James Dyson today launches a new kind of school to encourage Britain’s next generation of engineers, designers, inventors and entrepreneurs.
The Dyson School of Design Innovation opens in Bath in September 2008. It is a unique private/public initiative. The James Dyson Foundation – a longstanding educational charity – and a number of leading engineering and hi-tech partners are working with the Department for Education & Skills (DfES), the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the South West of England Regional Development Agency (South West RDA).
Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Williams F1 are getting involved, too. They are donating prototypes to inspire and take pride of place in the school's vast atrium, as well as involving their own engineers in the School through an industry mentoring programme.
The School will offer young people practical programmes in engineering, design and enterprise. Students will have hands-on experience of the latest technology - more often seen in industrial research and development centres.
2,500 students from Bath and the surrounding area will attend the school every week. 16-to-18-year-olds will attend full time and 14-to-16-year-olds one day a week.
As a National Centre of Excellence, the school also aims to:
§ Encourage young engineering talent from around the UK to hone skills and fast-track to foundation degree courses, during residential holiday courses
§ Provide teachers with specialist modules to use in their own schools
§ Open opportunities for adult learners who are considering a change in career, or for those who simply want to upgrade their skills."
Dyson is joining with various sectors of British government to open this innovative school teaching design innovation.
There is a huge amount of public policy work going on in Europe in the space of innovation, design and creativity. I fear that in the U.S., we are stuck in a rut of the federal government defining innovation just in terms of technology and pouring more money into engineering, science and math (yes, it's a good thing but only necessary, not nearly sufficient). Washington sponsors the annual National Design Awards contest through the Cooper Hewitt and that is a good thing too (lunch with Laura Bush was today, Monday. This year Nike won, as did MOMA's Paola Antonelli and 2x4, Maria Cornejo, Bill Stumpf and others. But the National Design Awards program could use more focus (do they go for lifetime achievement or to current great projects or to what?). I think the awards are a wonderful thing but what, as a nation, do we want to reward in design?
Washington doesn't get it on several fronts:
Invention does not automatically equate to innovation and technology and science do not automatically equate to creativity. Europe--meaning Britain, Scandanavia, the Netherlands and Italy in particular, do get design. They get it in terms of education, in terms of effecting social policy, in terms of generating economic growth, jobs and wealth. We really need to work on this in the U.S. It's not just about more money for design. It's about thinking about design thinking.