Eureka Conference Q&A: Will Mitchell, MD at 4C Design

Eureka! conference stream at EDS
Session - ‘Outside looking in’ under design philosophy

Can you please explain what 4C Design is and your role there?

4c Design is a product design and engineering consultancy, based in Glasgow.

Can you explain a little about ‘outside looking in’ in design philosophy?

Using external consultants to help drive creativity and innovation was once frowned upon. It was considered too much of a risk. The challenge was always ‘they’re not industry or sector experts, so they won’t understand what we do and how we do it’.

But that is to entirely miss the point of outsourced innovation. It is because we are not part of the industry that we can bring new, fresh, bold and brave thinking to the table. True innovation can only come when the status quo is challenged.

Why is this important to the engineering industry/society in general and what difference will it make going forward?

Innovation can be a source of growth, but only if it is managed correctly in a company. There is still a vast amount of effort going to waste because companies are not asking the right questions from the outset and are using blinkered thinking to provide ‘solutions’.

If they are to avoid disrupters in their market, they need to look outside their own walls and invite a fresh perspective.

What is 4C Design doing in this respect?

4c has been reaching out to companies directly to offer services around the innovation landscape. Examples of these are the Innovation Sprint, which looks at a particular opportunity and provides a fertile and intense platform for exploring and testing concepts rapidly and our Innovation Review, which can sense check an existing design concept, before any further funding is raised.

Through webinars, online events and now (thankfully) live events, we are presenting the benefits of outsourcing innovation as a means of capturing a different perspective, inspiring the engineers and designers already in the company and de-risking the development process.

What stage is the industry at with this concept?

We are seeing a real interest in this, because companies have known for years they need to innovate but have struggled to work out how to do it, or even where to start. By outsourcing it, they realise they can tap into a resource that already has the facilities and capabilities to hit the ground running.

Why are you looking forward to speaking at EDS this year?

Having spoken at an EDS event (virtually) earlier in the year, I was encouraged by the response and the quality of questions, so I know this is a subject people are interested to hear about, which always makes it easier. However, seeing those people and being able to actually engage with them, will give the event a whole new dimension, which we have all missed so much.

Tell us how it feels to be attending an in-person event again, finally?

Funnily enough, you just don’t get nervous on a webinar… It’s very easy to assume there is no one there. Very different at a live event. I’ve missed that feeling.