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On the Evolution of the National Design System: The Catch-up Perspective



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Li, Bohao 


Product combines function and form. This research focuses on the evolution of the product form and its corresponding system at national and international level. With the rise of the intangible economy, the evidence in this study presents that the global economy during the past decades has witnessed the transfer of design capability for product form from high-income countries to catch-up countries. However, product form as an intangible asset has been neglected by innovation policy makers in middle-income countries. Managers and policy makers thus need to depart from the traditional wisdom that product function is the main driver of product innovation and also to recognize product form as one of most significant complementary intangible assets to other related intellectual property schemes (e.g. trademark) in the new global economy context. Specifically, for the first time, the identification of “design-intensive industries” globally based on publicly available data becomes possible. This study further developed a new model on the measurement of the national design system – The National Design System 2.0. The research method employed in this study for the identification of the new model is the practitioner research method. Furthermore, semi-structural interviews with policy makers have been conducted in order to test the new model’s validation. Specifically, by innovatively incorporating the national design system framework into the theory of evolutionary economics, a comparative analysis of four groups of economies (namely the United States and China, catch-up economies, the developed economies and the middle-income economies) has been conducted to observe the different evolutionary patterns of their national design system. The cavern curve has been compiled according to the ranking of the GDP per capital for individual countries as well as the generalization for the classification of the four groups of economies. A strong similarity between their GDP per capital growth and national design system evolution in catch-up economies (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, China) has been observed. The value and benefits of this research are that it developed a new measurement model - the national design system 2.0 – which could help policy makers in latecomer countries to focus on product form in a global context. Also, the global country dashboard and analytical framework provide empirical analysis tools for innovation policy makers to grasp design- driven growth opportunities in the new global economy context.





Moultrie, James
Velu, Chander


National Design System, Evolutionary Economics, Catch-up, Product Form, Product Evolution, Global Value Chains, Governance Framework, Innovation Policy, Intellectual Property, Trade in Value Added, Trade, Sustainable Development Goals, Consumption, China, Evolution, Trademark, Intangible Capital, Intangible Economy, Design, Innovation Studies, National Innovation System, The UNESCO Creative Cities Network, UNCTAD, Creative Industries, Long Cycle, Cycles in Design, Product Lifecycle, Catch-up Cycle, Fashion, The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, Measuring Design Value, Design-intensive Industries, Design or Decline, Industry Lifecycle, Style, Product Space, Industrial Design Rights, USPTO Design Patent, WIPO, Globalization


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
United Nations General Fund