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Design & Innovation in public sector Chair

A research chair to evaluate the impact of design in public policy

The research chair for Design & Innovation in public sector is backed by Harmonie Mutuelle and several regional authorities (Département de Loire-Atlantique, Nantes Métropole and the regional prefect) since 2017.

Headed by Clémence Montagne, PhD (Head of the Care Design Lab), it aims to develop design-led research dedicated to the co-construction of innovative public actions together with citizens and public and private stakeholders.

Fieldwork in Bellevue (Nantes)


The governance of public policy is based on the implementation of ongoing exchanges between public authorities, the stakes involved and the local users (citizens), in order to set up public actions at different levels.

In this context where users are simultaneously consumers, producers and information relays, design has proved to be a key vector for reinventing public action.

The purposes of the chair are:

• to determine how and on what terms citizens can be involved in decisions affecting them within an ecosystem of public and private stakeholders;
• to promote innovative teaching programs in the field of public sector design, particularly in the Master programs associated with the Design Lab;
• to contribute knowledge (publications), new lines of thinking, methods and tools relating to the new themes linked to innovation in the public sector;
• to show researchers and the general public the importance of design in this field;
• to organise events (seminars, conferences, etc.) which bring together experts on the topics covered.


The chair consists of founding members and partners who back one or more research/project activities. An agreement signed with each of the founders and partners defines the organisation and working arrangements.

Research areas: public action design for quality of life of vulnerable citizens

The research in the Design & Innovation in public sector Chair focuses primarily on so-called vulnerable users/citizens (children, the elderly, people with disabilities or who are socially excluded). In this context, design-led research in co-construction with the stakeholders should consider the relevant questions and solutions in terms of spatial design, product design and digital design which could benefit all of these populations. The first research topics focus on issues of health, independent living and energy.

Research protocol and methods

• Implementation of project-led research based on projects carried out with partners (institutional and/or industrial) as a testing ground;
• Methodological approach based on participatory and collaborative work with users/citizens and stakeholders. The methods of co-design on which this process is based involve implementing systems to help identify tensions, circumventions, diversions and degrees of collaboration within the ecosystem;
• Analysis and assessment of these systems, particularly their integration in the ecosystem of actors;
• Iterative phases testing the hypotheses and solutions proposed in view of the initial issues.

Design methods and tools (creativity tools, representation, prototyping, etc.) are called upon to highlight issues which are often implicit, re-question the initial premises, test the solutions found and identify shared proposals regarding their implementation.

The research is based on teams of researchers and doctoral students in the Design Lab and associated academic laboratories. It is based on work carried out in interdisciplinary workshops combining students and staff attached to the Design Lab and on the competencies of the other Design Labs at L’École de design Nantes Atlantique.

An initial thesis co-supervised with UMR AAU, CRENAU laboratory and École Nationale d’Architecture in Nantes.

A thesis devoted to an interdisciplinary co-design approach on how to develop housing for the elderly has been selected as part of the first call for research projects in the RFI program initiated by the Region (Research-Training-Innovation - Creative Industries of the West). Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, it started in November 2016. The PhD student, Marketa Fingerova, is an associate anthropologist in the Care Design Lab. She is being supervised by Daniel Siret, director of the AAU laboratory (Ambiances, Architecture, Urbanités – Joint research unit 1563 CNRS/ECN/ENSA Grenoble/ENSA Nantes), in co-direction with Gaël Guilloux.