Our partners

D2i Design to Innovate

D2i is an integral part of the Regional Smart Specialisation strategy and one of four prioritised business clusters in the Region of Southern Denmark. D2i is working to increase companies’ usage of design driven innovation and is supporting more companies to get involved in design based development and innovation processes. D2i thus strengthens demand for design within established companies, as they increase both growth and exports, while the project also strengthens the growth of design businesses.

D2i use design to help businesses perform better. Design isn’t just about making things look good. It’s about solving human problems. Good designers are good strategists: they find ways to make things quicker, simpler, and more efficient. That’s invaluable to business.

Design offers proven and effective methods to promote innovation, to understand and engage users in finding the fastest way from concept to testing and to ensure the sustainability of production. Academic research paints a clear picture. Businesses that use design thinking are leaner, smarter and more profitable. Simply put: design makes business better.

D2i is a member-based cluster organisation and represents both design-using companies and a range of design consultancies, including other suppliers of design. D2i has a strong foundation in the regional research and design environment, in partnership with national design-oriented companies and public institutions, and with an international focus.


D2i - Design to innovate
Sdr. Havnegade 7
DK-6000 Kolding, Denmark

Aase Højlund Nielsen, Head of Development
E-mail: aase@d2i.dk

Information about the RIS3 of the partner region:

Regional Level document: “Region of Southern Denmark – Strategy 2012-2020”
Legal owner:
Region of Southern Denmark (Regional Growth Forum)

Regional Level document:
“The Future of Business in the Region of Southern Denmark” (Strategy Summary)
Legal owner: Region of Southern Denmark (Regional Growth Forum)

Key challenges for innovation policy

  • The level of growth in Southern Denmark is low. Over the past ten years, Southern Denmark has experienced only weak economic growth. Compared with other OECD countries, productivity in the 1990s was 20–30% above the average. In 2008, however, this lead had been almost completely erased, and productivity in the region is now only a few per cent above the OECD average. 

  • The level of education is low and does not align with the future needs of the business community. Unemployment has particularly affected unskilled workers, and regional forecasts indicate that many of them will be unable to get back into work without upgrading their skills. In the medium to long term, the region will face a shortage of people with vocational training qualifications and people with higher education, both general and specialist. 

  • Low company investment in research and development. At a national level companies invest 2% of GDP in R&D activities while in Southern Denmark the investment is only 1.1% of GDP.

  • Innovation-rate is lower than in other Danish regions. The South Danish region is the only one of the five Danish regions to be ranked as an 'Strong Innovator', rather than 'innovation leader' in a European perspective, according to the EU Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2016.

  • Few new companies are settling in the region, thus few jobs are created, and the proportion of production going to export markets is falling. The relatively high share (3.2%) of the Southern Denmark entrepreneurs who do well and become “growth entrepreneurs” must be retained.

Smart Specialisation areas in Southern Denmark:

The Region of Southern Denmark has a focused and long-term development in selected business areas:

  • Health and Social Innovation
    The increasing national and international demand for innovative welfare solutions, including welfare technologies and services, is generating a large international market that the companies of Southern Denmark can exploit 
  • Sustainable Energy
    The increasing demand for energy resources is creating an expanding global market in the field of energy-efficient technologies, the extraction of fossil fuels and sustainable offshore energy
  • Experience Economy
    The Region of Southern Denmark has internationally popular destinations that are attracting an increasing number of holidaymakers and commercial tourists. Southern Denmark possesses strong skills in the fields of food and design – skills that can contribute to boosting the companies’ revenues.

Business areas are selected on the basis of the region's particular strengths and potentials as well as the expected developments in national and global demand in individual areas. The focused efforts started in 2009 and are in line with the European Commission's approach to smart specialisation, focusing on areas where the region has expertise or a competitive advantage. Support of the smart specialisation cluster development constitutes an essential element of the focused effort. Experience shows that companies included in strong clusters and cluster-like environments are more competitive and innovative.

Main objectives of the RIS3

The Danish government and the Regions have a shared ambition to strengthen growth and knowledge-based development throughout Denmark, and to exploit the strengths and development potential that exists across the country. The ambition is to strengthen the knowledge bridges between companies and knowledge institutions, so that the governmental funded research is far more conducive to innovation and value creation.

The Region of Southern Denmark economic development strategy charts a long-term course for 2020 and constitutes the framework for the regional-political commercial development work for the coming years. Specifically, the strategy prioritizes and launches initiatives to achieve the following regional strategic goals:

Goals for the business areas
Overall 2020 GOALS
Health and social innovation
30% growth in productivity 25% increase in export share
Productivity level 10% above the OECD average & Occupational frequency on a par with the OECD Top 5
Sustainable energy
15% growth in productivity
10% growth in exports
Experience economy
25% growth in productivity 15% growth in employment


Development and activities in the regional Smart Specialisation areas are funded by specific project initiatives under the EU Structural Funds. The Region supports and encourages the attraction of both national and international funds, from e.g. Horizon 2020, INTERREG 5A, NSR, BSR, Europe, to support the development of businesses.