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DBI survey shows UK design in mixed fortunes

LONDON - British Design Innovation's annual survey of the UK design industry has shown some mixed results this year, revealing turnover and employees are down, but overseas income is on the up.

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Turnover overall fell by 6% from £4.6bn to £4.3bn, with most growth coming in the mid-sized companies, suggesting that smaller, newer companies and freelances are struggling.

Employee numbers for 2005/2006 are also down, this time by 8.4%. Over half the industry is still made up of companies with five or fewer staff. However, this has been falling over the past three years, down from 58% in 2003/2004 to 51% in 2005/2006.

The good news is that overseas income is up by 19% on last year to £800m, ahead of where it was in 2002/2003 when the industry took a tumble.

London remains the largest design region in the UK, accounting for a third of all companies. The market share across all regions has remained relatively static, with only East of England showing a drop from 10% to 8%, picked up by the East Midlands moving from 5.4% to 7%.

Business-to-business design continues to show growth as did the sector last year, up by 6%. BDI suggest this may also reflect a heightened awareness and engagement of areas such as emerging service design.

Now in its sixth year, the BDI annual survey is the only industry-wide review that specifically focuses on the UK commercial design sector. The survey uses a base of 4,500 commercial design firms, and more than 1,500 design firms, representing over a third of the sector, participated in the 2005/2006 survey. It is supported by UK Trade and Investment.

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