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Design Innovation: A Tool for Value-Adding to the Papua New Guinea Balsa Wood Industry

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In recent times the Papua New Guinea (PNG) balsa wood industry has increased in global volume and value, offering employment to a significant number of individuals in East New Britain (ENB) Province. The PNG balsa industry previously relied on China’s renewable wind energy industry for rotor blade manufacturing, which was claimed to be the largest consumer of processed balsa from PNG. Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) the Chinese demand for PNG balsa has significantly reduced, resulting in a mass over-supply and under-demand for the PNG resource. A lack of design innovation has added to the current market conundrum and left many smallholders unable to sell their balsa, leading to widespread financial hardship. It has come to the attention of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and many stakeholders that if there are no new applications for balsa there is no point continuing to grow the resource for a market that is not consuming it. Design innovation generated through research-led industrial design practice is argued as a key element in value-adding to the PNG balsa industry and smallholder businesses. The use of research to inform the design process and generate design innovation is demonstrated through a case study as an attempt to rectify the current over-supply and under-demand.
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Keywords: Papua New Guinea(PNG); balsa; design innovation; research-led industrial design practice; smallholders; value-add

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Tasmania 2: Swinburne University of Technology

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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  • The Journal of Design, Business & Society is a double-blind peer reviewed scholarly journal that aims to publish high-quality academic papers that examine the role of design in business and/or society, case studies, design critiques, and book reviews of relevant literature. Our aim is to promote cross-disciplinary research in the field of design. Therefore, in addition to design papers we are also interested in receiving manuscripts on research about design that are coming from non-design areas, such as business, marketing, management, health, psychology, social sciences, environmental sciences, and others.
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