Clearly, there is a lot of work being undertaken by both academia and industry, but it is highly fragmented. From debate, the workshop concluded that the environment is one of virtual integration of companies as industry moves along the trend towards that of service provider. Across the globe, the UK has a reputation for project management of large scale complex products e.g. hydroelectric construction etc. It is in the area of dynamic integration of business that the UK needs to maintain its competitive edge based on a wide awareness of engineering.
The workshop identified that Systems Integration could make a significant contribution to the UK's future economic growth, but, due to its complexity and demand on resources, it needs to be orchestrated. It was also recognised that the domain is highly embryonic with very few experts and even fewer practitioners. The awareness of this, and its importance to business, needs to be promoted in the UK among those not currently involved and there need to be debating shops for the leaders in this field to exchange ideas and experience so as to progress the vision efficiently. To aid the development, directed research under a vision and plan needs to be formulated.
For each of the lines of action identified, there is a further need to define, scope and determine the breakdown into realistic areas for research without losing the global enterprise integration issues/benefits. A series of short, medium and long term activities also needs to be undertaken for each identified line of action:
|Short Term||State of the Art, Awareness, Best Practice, Knowledge Repository|
|Medium Term||Framework, Project Implementation/Demonstration, Creation of Networks, Cross-pollination Workshops, Technology transfer|
|Long Term||Research projects|
Academic researchers are typically employed on fixed term contracts with the same duration as the research project. This results in a lack of continuity. There needs to be some kind of knowledge repository established to capture project knowledge so that this information, and not just the project results, is available for the future. Alternatively, research streams consisting of multiple contracts, issued in phases, could be employed to create centres of excellence.
Due to the high evolutionary rate of the global business environment, it is recommended that there is a periodic review to determine the latest state of expertise or knowledge and to re-assess the priorities for UK plc. This could be an annual review of industrial direction, lines of action and activities undertaken to ensure that these activities are all still required and are in line with the direction and, if not, how they can be re-aligned.
To ensure the optimal and timely exploitation of project results, early awareness activities are required. Industry can then identify potential pilot projects on which to trial and validate the results in a 'safe', low impact area of the business before roll out into the mainstream business. This may well identify other opportunities for cross-sectoral implementation, whichwill require some additional research to be undertaken before implementation. The ICT Programme could provide the means of technology transfer to other industries, involving teaching company schemes.
There is a need to understand the interactions between the various players involved in the technical creation and deployment and it is recommended that a process is defined and documented with appropriate guidelines for dissemination of progress to the plan. This is particularly necessary to understand the interactions between the development timescales and windows of opportunity for deployment/marketing of the results. This should be supported by a series of focused workshops i.e. trends in information exchange. This could be taken into account by various Government organisations in their promotion of UK competitiveness.
The Systems Integration scenarios identified by the workshop demands that all sources of knowledge should be brought to bear. One such source of knowledge is the European Research Initiative, particularly in the domain of IST. Concerted involvement of the UK is recommended in its approach to Europe. This is particularly true if the UK is to capitalise on Framework Programme VI funding available at European level.
This will involve large projects building on regional initiatives. UK participation in the iViP, "integrated Virtual Product Creation", is a German regional initiative, involving multiple organisations, which aims to model the whole product development life cycle with its attendant facilities. It is recommended that a workshop targeted at Government Departments should be held to emphasise the importance of this area and the need to involve multiple skills and interests. In addition, the vision could be used as a catalyst and an instrument for the UK to participate on level terms. A deliverable of this workshop could also be a positioning statement with regard to FPVI.
And last but not least, the dynamics of the group of people attending the Workshop worked very well and represented a cross section of expertise and knowledge, who are active players in the domain. As the Workshop clearly identified, the understanding of the domain is generally low and, when combined with the business pressures, it is a very volatile one, both in the learning and application areas. It is therefore recommended that this group be retained.
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