Designing a new future for Kiwi companies is the aim of a council launched in Auckland last night.

Better by Design is a Government-sponsored programme to boost the competitive advantage of local businesses through world-class design.

Better by Design leadership group chairman Jeremy Moon said design was the key to unlocking this country's potential.


"New Zealanders are good at coming up with new ideas but there's a big gap - as a nation of business people - between our creativity and innovation and our ability to commercialise that," he said.

"In simple terms, you could say we've got a blockage here. There's no shortage of great business ideas, but a big shortage of high value-add exporters."

Moon, who is the chief executive of outdoor clothing company Icebreaker, is leading a team of seven leaders in business, design and design education who are working with Trade and Enterprise to reverse this.

The Government has allocated $12.5 million over the next four years to the programme, which was developed from its Growth and Innovation Framework established in 2002 to explore ways to deliver long-term sustainable economic growth.

Initiatives under the Better by Design umbrella range from a design directory, education, mentoring and funding assistance through to a design audit of businesses.

"The tools we've created are about trying to speed up the process of getting New Zealand into the forefront of design excellence," said Moon.

The group plans to bring design and business expert Tom Peters, among others, to its March conference in Auckland to illustrate how to convert to design-led models.