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One of the treatments prescribed for the ailing UK economy is more innovative technology-based products in industry. This appears to ignore the financial disasters that have attended many of our technological succes d'estime. Better understanding of the innovative process in design is needed to form judgments in this area. While it has received much attention in recent years, there appears to be no comprehensive model fitting it into an industrial system embracing the concepts of noninnovative or conventional design, personal attributes of designers, cultural environments and other factors influencing industrial performance. Such a system is inevitably multidimensional. Comments on innovation in isolation are unlikely to be useful. Such a model, if credible, would provide new insight into the industrial success of Japan and West Germany, both of whom lag behind us in product innovation, but lead us in commercial performance. Catastrophe theory is capable of describing a system of this order of complexity and is one of the few able to deal with the inventive step in design, the `innovative discontinuityÂ¿. A version is put forward attempting to provide a qualitative model of the engineering design process in the context of the company and the national cultures.