The first objective of this workshop was to bring together leading experts from academia, industry, service provision and representatives from the DTI and EPSRC to develop a mutual understanding of the domain of Systems Integration and its predicted evolution. It was also to consider in more detail the needs of the UK in regard to technical integration of information flows against a background of the extended enterprise and virtual organisations. This was met very successfully via the series of presentations made and the personal networking activities undertaken.
The second objective was to extend previous work undertaken and identify high-level topic areas for research and identify lines of action to be addressed. This was satisfactorily achieved by the workshop, although further work is clearly required to bring sufficient focus for researchers and industry to address.
The conclusion of meeting these objectives is that the group of people attending the Workshop worked very well together in identifying the high-level topic areas for research and also the lines of action to be addressed. They represent a nucleus of expertise for the UK.
From evidence derived from EPSRC project submissions and awareness of some industrial activity, it was thought that there was an inadequate level of understanding in the UK particularly between academia and industry, resulting in a lack of overall expertise. The workshop has shown that in the UK:
The workshop made a humble beginning by bringing together and sharing knowledge and creating a level playing field from which to move forward. This way forward must involve long term research, benchmarking, awareness and education, demonstrators and last but not least integration. As this will involve and must include multi-project and activities over a considerable length of time, these need to be co-ordinated against a framework that is reviewed at least annually. It cannot be emphasised enough that this co-ordination is necessary to compensate for the breadth and complexities of the domain, the lack of expertise and the moving goal posts of business evolution.
Despite all the Government Initiatives, the major view held by the Workshop is that there is still a major need to understand end-to-end integration. This would then provide more than a product - a customer service. This will inevitably involve the co-operation of multiple organisations coming together for a short duration to service a specific customer need.
Upon achieving customer satisfaction, and the demand satisfied, the organisation would dissolve and re-form to serve another client. The Government initiatives have certainly supported formulations of methods and tools as building blocks but fall short of building a model of the UK manufacturing enterprise. It is essential that this is done.
A vision needs to be passed into all sizes of UK companies to indicate directions for the sustained growth of competitiveness. This will involve the promotion of a UK manufacturing business infrastructure framework.
Within Europe, there are initiatives, such as iViP, "integrated Virtual Product Creation", which could be beneficial or could constrain UK PLC development. It was therefore seen to be advantageous if the UK was a party to these developments as an equal player. However, without Government motivation in the UK, it is difficult to see how this could occur other than one or two of the larger companies playing catch up or giving away their ideas and innovation to be capitalised upon across a wide front in Europe.
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