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Design Forward

The city of San Diego and surrounding region can boast a booming innovation economy, with 5500 companies employing in excess of 140,000 people.  The growth in this economy has driven a vast number of initiatives currently underway (e.g., Smart Cities, the Global Cities Initiative, MetroLab, the San Diego Startup scene, the Makers Quarter, the IDEA District, the Mesa, the Miracle Coast, the Innovation Walk, the Cali-Baja border), as well as the unprecedented arrival of events such as Adobe MAX and the World Beach Games.  

As a substantial presence in the area and an objective entity with the power to convene civic, industry, and community leaders, UC San Diego is well positioned to help coordinate these and other initiatives.  The first step is the facilitation and formation of a strong, clear, formal narrative and identity for the region. We are calling it San Diego: Innovation Designed Here.


San Diego is home to diverse and highly educated talent, prime real estate, robust academic and private research sectors, a large military presence, and a highly interconnected ecosystem.  The power of this convergence is further fueled by the fact that we have a strong legacy of creating and manufacturing the world’s most impactful technologies, as well as pioneering areas spanning biotech, military R&D, active sports, entertainment, patents, and entrepreneurship.  As such, it is often difficult to articulate the breadth and depth of San Diego’s competitive advantages. It is essential to formulate an identity that promotes the San Diego region as a true innovation and entrepreneurial hub, differentiated by design and robust university research.  With an overarching theme, we can align our initiatives to a greater goal, start to use a common vocabulary, and cross-pollinate talent throughout the region. We can build upon the collaborative nature of San Diego and start to organically grow an identity that will define us as a global leader in innovation and allow us to attract and retain the industry, capital and talent needed for our region to thrive.


Initiated by UCSD Design Lab in 2016, the Design Forward Alliance (DFA) is a non-profit organization that promotes design-driven innovation in business, education, and government. Members of DFA include representatives of most of the design organizations in the San Diego region. DFA sponsors numerous design-related events in the San Diego region that will be of interest to the members of the UC San Diego Design Lab as well as to those who follow the Design Lab activities.

The DFA website:

DFA Events:

The Large, annual Design Forward Summit:




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