New Product Design:

Cross-Pollination of Ideas

DEGAP Tool: Thinking in Three Dimensions

Narrowing the Gap Between Design, Engineering and Marketing


Source: Innovation & Technology Transfer


Poor communication between the different disciplines involved in product development means substantial overheads which can stifle innovation,
especially within SMEs.

The DEGAP project uses a unique approach to narrow the gap between design, engineering and marketing.


Bringing together
  different approaches to solving a problem

can lead to a more effective solution



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The different approaches brought to product development by designers, engineers and marketers create problems much more substantial than the use of slightly different language.

The European Design Centre (EDC) in the Netherlands estimates that 10-20% of project costs are commonly considered by companies as overheads unavoidable expenses of running the company and not the responsibility of any one person or department. Communications gaps lead to delays in product design, delays in production schedules and a higher risk of failing to meet quality goals. The result is increased time to market and loss of market share often critical for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with small product portfolios.

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Virtual Workplace

"We cannot hope to close the gap, but by improving communication between the different disciplines we can make it much smaller," says Mat Josquin of the EDC. The DEGAP project, funded by the European Commission's Enterprise DG, uses virtual reality to build an interactive platform where users can enter a virtual world of work and see issues and problems similar to those in their own companies. By choosing options they can influence the development of events and interact with each other. Varying the choice will result in different outcomes, so users can see the effect of more considered decisions. The tool can be used individually or as a part of company training presentations.

To develop the DEGAP tool, partners in the project design centres, engineering and project management organisations - are working on real examples of the communications gap, drawn from companies known to the partners. Analysing the experiences and problems gives plenty of material for the interactive platform. The partners have been able to collect examples of communication problems in design, engineering, research and development, and marketing, from firms in Germany, Spain, Portugal and Poland as well as the Netherlands. The project is supported by an advisory board which brings additional input from Ireland, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands and Germany.

Design Liaison Coach

DEGAP's second line of approach is to develop the concept of a new type of product development manager with a completely new role in the innovation process >>>

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As Josquin explains, "the role is that of a design liaison coach, linking board level and project participants. The person needs the skills to improve communication between the different aspects of the project, and acts less as a supervisor than as a communications coach. He or she would help engineers to appreciate the thinking of designers, and the same for the other points of interaction between disciplines. The free exchange of information is essential, so it is an internal role rather than one for an external consultant. The aim is to remove the communications gaps or 'degap' the company ‒ and this is now beginning to have a real meaning for companies as a quality mark."

Innovation-friendly Organization