Sarah Weir

Design Council

Chief Executive
Startup //
Design Council Spark

Talk Abstract:
A brief overview of the programme, and how design and innovation help support and overcome the many nationwide challenges faced people on a daily basis. Spark provides a design led approach to tackle every day challenges from designing product solutions for people affected by arthritis and dexterity issues, to the global environmental issue that is the disposable coffee cup.

Since its creation in 2014, Design Council Spark programme has helped more than 100 innovators and entrepreneurs to develop their product ideas, 31 of these have been intensively supported with mentoring, funding and specialist workshops in order to progress to market.

Now in its fourth year, Spark has become a leading UK product innovation support programme and fund. The programme provides design expertise to help shape business opportunities and develop product innovations through an intensive 16-week process, which gives access to specialists across business, IP, investment, and marketing; funding of £15,000 to develop the product, and the opportunity to pitch for a share of up to £200,000 further funding to fast-track the product to market.

For the third year running Design Council Spark is proud to confirm our partnership with Arthritis Research UK, a charity which conducts research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. Both organisations share a similar ethos – to improve lives through innovation and design. The charity’s support for Design Council Spark aims to attract new product ideas for life-altering products and to fast-track those products to market.

Up to 15 finalists are selected onto our 16-week programme, receiving one-to-one mentoring with specialists in a variety of fields as well as 5 core workshops led by a team of design experts. Finalists gain access to Design Council Spark network and extensive community of past alumni

Once accepted onto the programme all finalists receive an initial sum of £15,000 to help develop their product, as well as the opportunity to pitch in front of an investment panel to gain further funding to fast-track their product into market.

Sarah Weir is CEO of Design Council. She was previously Executive Producer at the Roundhouse in London, Chief Executive of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire and her other past roles include Chief Executive of The Legacy List, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park charity (now called Foundation for Future London); Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy for Olympic Delivery Authority; Executive Director, Arts Council England; London and Executive Director of the Almeida Theatre. She started her career as a broker at Lloyd’s of London and over a 15-year career went from being the office junior to Managing Director, the first woman to hold this position. She has a History of Art BA from Birkbeck College (1993-7), was awarded an OBE for services to the arts (2011), First Woman Awards for public service (2013) and is a Fellow of Birkbeck College (2013). Sarah also serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Society.