Although still often associated with aesthetics only, the application of design is much broader . The concept of design as a driver of user-centred innovation has evolved. Design is increasingly recognised as a key discipline and activity to bring ideas to the market, transforming them into user-friendly, appealing, high quality products.
There is general political agreement that all forms of innovation need to be supported and that the progressive shift in emphasis away from an exclusive reliance on “technology push” in innovation policy and support must continue. The Competitiveness Council of 26 May 2010 reiterated the importance of non-technological innovation and, in this context, stated that design is an important driver of user-centred innovation. The Council invited the Commission “to give special attention to design” and to “establish platforms for exchanging knowledge, experiences and best practices on design issues”. Furthermore, the Competitiveness Council of 26 November  stresses "the need for: broad concept of innovation, including technological and non-technological, demand and user-driven innovation […] innovation in services and design, […], open and social innovation in support of creativity and entrepreneurship and for the benefit of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth;"
Design as a strategic, cross-functional and multidisciplinary innovation activity implies a broader role for the designer, linking several functions and ensuring that the customer/user is always in focus. When applied to services, systems and organisations, user-centred design thinking drives business model innovation, organisational innovation and other forms of non-technological innovation. Nevertheless design, user and non-technological aspects of innovation are yet insufficiently integrated into innovation policy and support. Although some European countries are among the world leaders in design, others lack a robust design infrastructure and design capability in companies and education. This is a systemic gap in the European innovation system that has largely gone unnoticed and unaddressed.
 See Commission Staff Working Document Design as a driver of user-centred innovation, SEC(2009)501 of 7 April 2009.
 Cf. Dec. 2009 Council Conclusions towards a competitive, innovative and eco-efficient Europe – para 33; Dec. 2008 Council Conclusions on Small Business Act - IV (c); Dec. 2006 Council Conclusions on a Broad-based Innovation Strategy.
 May 2010 Council Conclusions on Creating an Innovative Europe II Markets - art. 5.
 November 2010 Council Conclusions on Innovation Union
The objectives of the European Design Innovation Initiative (EDII) are:
- to better integrate design as a driver of user-driven innovation into innovation policy and related policies, in particular reserach, education, enterprise, cohesion and competition policy support at EU, national and regional level.
- to raise awareness of design and user-driven innovation to tap into its full potential in all Member States and types of companies and education professionals.
The European Design Innovation Initiative (EDII) will have an open and flexible approach to bring together stakeholders with an interest in integrating and mainstreaming design thinking into innovation related policies, support and projects and will contribute to this development.
Target groups include in particular Member States' ministries in charge of innovation, research, enterprises, education and regional developpment policies, innovation-oriented design support organisations and firms, international design organisations, design schools and research centres, regional institutions with focus on innovation, SME organisations and design-driven companies.
The initiative will be steered by the European Design Leadership Board, involving organisations and experts in the field of design, industry and higher-education. It will contribute to developing a joint vision, joint priorities and joint action to achieve the EDII objectives, provide advice to the Commission on policy matters related to design and innovation, work out concrete recommendations on how to better integrate design, user aspects and other non-technological aspects into innovation policy and support. These recommendations will constitute the basis for an action plan of the European Design Innovation Initiative. The following topics may be addressed:
- how to increase interdisciplinarity in European education, between technological research and development, business and design;
- how to improve the evidence base and measurement of design and non-technological innovation aspects;
- how to improve the access to and use of quality design capabilities by SMEs across Europe;
- how to increase the EU and national funding opportunities for design as innovation driver and non-technological development;
- how to promote European design internationally and provide incentives for European companies to improve the quality and attractiveness of their products.
A secretariat assists the Commission in launching the European Design Innovation Initiative and in making the Leadership Board operational. The secretariat acts as a link between the Commission, the Design Leadership Board and the wider design innovation stakeholders, and communicate the results, contribute to awareness raising and dissemination of good practices.