Problem domain

The new emerging e-empowered business world is demanding a new approach to business relationships between enterprises both large and small. These business relationships will have to support the creation and development of multiple products across a variety of supply chains capitalising on the diverse skill base. Rationalisation exercises by companies over the past decade have resulted in companies with high levels of concentrated skills addressing a particular competitive edge. For UK manufacturing to remain competitive within the global sphere, it is mandatory that these multiple focussed organisations can be brought together in a very flexible and dynamic manner to meet new commercial opportunities. To integrate these macro systems, a new understanding and way of working needs to be developed across industry and academia utilising the multiple experiences and skills attributed to people, processes and technology.

An initial workshop in Bedford, in February 2000, explored some of the issues facing industry and academia. From this, it was clear that this area of research and development was very complex and needed a close association between industry and academia to debate the business development and the supporting research necessary to ensure the competitiveness of the UK well into the future.

Current experience within the area of Systems Integration has resulted in project proposals that are either, too detailed and focussed for UK industry, being more appropriate to a single organisation, or so wide they are unachievable. This is a result of the different ways of working within academia and industry. Business demands are constantly moving and practitioners have difficulty defining the requirements. Researchers, on the other hand, do not have experience of this changing environment and consequently have limited understanding of the problems to be solved.any of the present concerns of participants at the workshop were subsumed or supplanted by the issues raised later in the workshop concerned with future visions and obstacles to realisation of those visions

Nature of the workshop
The approach taken for the workshop was to have a series of presentations given by leading experts from Industry, Academia, Service Providers and Government. This set in context a future business environment in which the discussions and ensuing debate could take place. An overview of the presentations made is detailed below within 'UK Manufacturing - Business today, tomorrow and technological advances'. To conclude the first day, a keynote address was given on Manufacturing Futures, giving the longer term vision and food for thought just prior to dinner.

The second day consisted of a full day of workshop sessions, commencing with a summary of the business requirements based upon the previous day's presentations. The workshop approach utilised a facilitated mechanism known as Metaplan. The objective was to determine prioritised lines of action within 5 mutually agreed Topic Areas.

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