D2i – Design to innovate

– A Danish cluster aiming to generate growth in private enterprises through design

Who are we?

D2i – Design to innovate is a design cluster located in South Denmark. The cluster is fostered through a strong design ecosystem that builds on a solid and value-creating involvement of private enterprises, educational institutions, public authorities and cultural institutions. The role of D2i is to constantly facilitate and orchestrate development and co-creation within this ecosystem.

D2i is a member-based project organisation that administers large projects in close collaboration with the consortium behind the cluster. Both private memberships and public funding finance the design cluster. The consortium behind the design cluster includes, among others, Design School Kolding, the University of Southern Denmark, Capital of Children – Billund, Danish Design Center, Lifestyle & Design Cluster, Kolding Municipality and the Region of Southern Denmark. The industry is represented in the Board of Directors through LEGO, ECCO, Kähler and SkibstedID.

Formally, D2i is an association with a Board of Governors, representing the partners who form the cluster. D2i is operated by a secretariat with 10-15 employees, located in the city of Kolding, Denmark, in close proximity to the Design School Kolding, Business Kolding and the University of Southern Denmark.

Gold Cluster Certificate

D2i – Design to innovate has been certified as Gold Cluster within the European Cluster Excellence Initiative, with design and design-driven innovation and business development as its fields of specialisation. The Gold Certification is a seal of approval of highly sophisticated cluster management. For the companies, the Gold Label demonstrates a mature organisation with strong competences within its field of specialisation. For companies collaborating with D2i, the Gold

Label signals access to relevant and profound knowledge of design methods and approaches to innovation.

At the European level, approximately 1,000 clusters have been labelled with bronze, silver or gold – of them, approximately 100 are Gold Clusters. In Denmark, 14 clusters have achieved the Gold Certificate (2018).

Why do we do it?

We believe that the use of design methods is a way for enterprises to increase sales, production, number of employees and overall satisfaction among customers and co-workers, and, thus, a way to create growth.

We know that strategic design brings benefits when talking about innovation. Analysis at the national and international level have proven to increase growth for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using design at a strategic level. Companies that use design generally have a much stronger competitive position in the international market than companies that do not use design. This is also reflected in the companies’ expectations of the future, as companies that use design and creative competencies have more positive expectations with regard to investments, exports, turnover and the number of employees. Still, many enterprises struggle doing it – this is why, D2i – Design to innovate exists. We assist Danish SME’s evolution and create growth by introducing them to design thinking, as well as following them on their journey of using design.

In 2018, the McKinsey assessed the importance of design in companies through the report “The business value of design”. This report emphasizes how companies that use design generally have a much stronger competitive position in the international market than companies that do not use design.

What do we do?

We assist Danish small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow and develop by introducing them to strategic design and, subsequently, by maintaining their application of design methods. We aid growth and development, in terms of size, innovation capacity and competitiveness, by assisting them in “designing” new solutions, ideas and collaborations.

Our focus is not on tangible design products or design as form-giving, but on design as a method and a strategic tool for companies to enhance their productivity and business development.

The power of design thinking is that it works across a variety of professions and businesses. As such, D2i works with innovation in enterprises in all types of sectors through a systemic and strategic approach that is based on methods used by designers.

How do we work?

With design as the key factor, D2i – Design to innovate engages in a range of activities with a common focus on design methods that target different industries at an organisational, executive or staff level. This includes activities aimed at inspiring companies and organisations to take a more innovative and systematic approach in their service and business development by means of design thinking and methods.

D2i – Design to innovate works on two fronts.

One is project based, introducing Danish enterprises to strategic design through innovation activities, lifelong-learning courses and competence development in cooperation with competent partners and through EU-funding. In addition to this, D2i – Design to innovate focuses on establishing foreign partnerships and initiating relevant, societal projects where design can make a change.


Unfolded this means, D2i:

  • Initiates and supports enterprises’ development journey through a range of different activities, which are adapted to the needs and interests of each enterprise
  • Introductory and onboarding workshops that introduce design methods and design thinking; and
  • Targeted project activities, according to specific needs and challenges.

The other is based on sparring with Danish enterprises and maintaining them in working with strategic design. Typically, the collaboration consists of identifying a given challenge with a membership-paying enterprise, followed by a relevant match between the enterprise and a design bureau that can solve the problem.


In more concrete words, D2i:

  • Sets up 1:1 meetings with enterprises, in which we aim to identify the challenges for each particular enterprise;
  • Sets up match-making meetings, which introduce an enterprise to the right knowledge match (for instance, a designer capable of addressing their specific needs); and
  • Facilitates network meetings with a smaller group of enterprises to frame discussions and peer-learning on how design methods can be applied in solving specific challenges.

Our Projects

D2i provides opportunities for partners and collaboration stakeholders to become involved in large national or international projects by:

– Taking on fundraising and administrative tasks;

– Creating an organisational setup; and

– Identifying and connecting with the right partners, at a national and international level.

Projects funded from Interreg-programmes where D2i is a partner:

· EmpInno – Baltic Sea Interreg-programmes, which empowers innovation and growth in medium-sized cities and regions through better strategies; and

· VekselWirk – Denmark-Germany programme, which supports creative entrepreneurs, students and start-ups in smaller cities.

Projects funded from European structural funds (European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund) where D2i is the lead partner or partner:

· Growth by Design – business growth and development through a design approach;

· Growth Catalyst – using design methods in developing growth plans;

· Design Innovation – improved capacity in working with design methods for employees and employers;

· Design Boot Camp – promoting design students through collaborative activities with enterprises (operated by Design School Kolding); and

· Digitalisation projects: Digitalisation Boost and Digitalisation Transformation (partner) – projects aiming at creating innovation and boosting digitalisation in SMEs through collaboration with knowledge institutions and use of design methods.

Project funded from national founds where D2i is the lead partner:

· Sprint:Digital (together with Danish Design Center) – improve the ability of SMEs to enter the digital world by going through “design sprints”.

Being a lead partner shows D2i’s administration skills, ability to work with diverse tasks and adaptability for working with different challenges in various fields.

Furthermore, taking part in international projects displays a further capacity to adapt and interact with different cultures.