The Design Reaktor Berlin is a multi-disciplinary research project of the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK)/Berlin University of the Arts. The aim is to encourage innovative co-operation between small and medium-sized companies and designers, in order to investigate strategies and prospects for post-industrial locations, based on Berlin as an example.

52 businesses of all kinds
52 companies—from a Mozzarella cheese dairy, an engraver to a rubber goods manufacturer, from a car customising and tuning shop to a suitcase factory and a pasta maker, from low to high tech—are expert partners for our collaborative enterprise.

Networking and facilitating
In a two-week series of workshops, the experimental links between trades, materials, technologies and tools from the various companies produced hundreds of ideas. After an assessment by a panel of experts of their feasibility and market potential, 52 widely diverse products were developed further in close co-operation with the companies concerned. Six patents have been applied for.

Between experimental and commercial
Traditionally it is the products that are developed first, then attention turns to planning the communication strategies and the means of distribution. The Design Reaktor Berlin works on all these things simultaneously so as to improve the efficiency of the development process and enhance the product's identity. To position the products between the experimental and the commercial, the Design Reaktor Berlin involves professional discussion of strategies for marketing, communications and distribution.

Inter-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary and non-disciplinary
For the first time within the Berlin University of the Arts, the Design Reaktor brings together 81 students from six academic disciplines and nine professorially-led research teams: fashion and product design, digital design, strategic communication and planning, communication design, photography and video.

A practical, experimental approach
Key features in the design process are:
—the hands-on approach
—the multi-disciplinary modus operandi
—the fostering of expertise at the interfaces between disciplines
—shared authorship
—the dynamic project management
—communication, commitment and market relevance
—personal initiative and the multiple relationships that spring from it

This multi-disciplinary approach reveals an interesting potential future culture of collaborative research between the Berlin University of the Arts and partners from the world of business.

First Fruits
On 20 July, as part of the Berlin University of the Arts' Open Day, the Design Reaktor Berlin presented 52 prototypes as the first fruits of three months of design and development work. The Berlin Mayor and Senator with responsibility for Economic Affairs, Harald Wolf, said in his opening remarks: «Today Berlin is one of the most productive design cities in Europe. The research project 'Design Reaktor Berlin' is a fantastic project with a great deal of potential. It is our showcase for its effect in the economy, the professional project management, an interdisciplinary approach and a wide variety of competencies. All this help the sometimes hidden skills of small companies and enable them to develop new marketable products. Lots of people talk about innovation – the 'Design Reaktor Berlin' starts an innovation process in a very pragmatic – and as the prototypes demonstrate – with a deal of success. Therefore I expect this project to provide considerable innovative impetus for Berlin as a place to do business.»

The second phase
Universities have the capacity to develop and to initiate. The commercial realisation of the very large and varied range of products demands both individual strategies and co-operative action. The shift into the market place requires partners such as companies and agencies.
In the second phase, based on these practical experiences, a network-based methodology for post-industrial strategies is to be formulated.
Both of these things will be made accessible in publications, lectures and other presentations such as exhibitions.

Das Projekt wird vom Berliner Senat für Wirtschaft, Technologie und Frauen durch EFRE-Mittel des Europäischen Entwicklungsfonds gefördert.

Innerhalb der Universität der Künste verbindet der Design Reaktor erstmals 81 Studierende aus sechs Fachrichtungen und zehn Professuren: Mode- und Produktdesign, digitales Design, Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftskommunikation, Kommunikationsdesign, Foto und Video.