SYSTEMS INTEGRATION INITIATIVE
Guidance for referees
(Note that these points are also emphasised to members of the panel, who are given a special briefing on the aims of the programme, and on what proposers and referees have been told, prior to the panel meeting proper.)
The most important point is that projects in this programme should be different. While academic quality is still a fundamental requirement, the usual good team working in an important area is not sufficient.
In addition to the third call for proposals, which sets out the scope and the particular requirements for proposals in this programme, proposers have been given extensive guidance on the nature of proposals which we seek. The call, the guidance, and additional material about the Systems Integration Initiative, may be found at http://www.ideo.co.uk/epsrc/sii/ (i.e.here)
We have a very broad view of systems being integrated.They might be technical systems, information systems, organisational systems or combinations of these. Typically they will be chararacterised by complexity and heterogeneity, in an environment of uncertainty.
Proposals should, in general, be problem driven - that is, focused on real-world integration challenges experienced or foreseen by non-academic partners. However, we do not seek (just) short-term benefits. Rather, the problem should inspire insightful intellectual discovery.
Proposals should be ambitious - risk of failure is therefore inherent. Radical solutions and imaginative approaches to those solutions are sought, rather than incremental development of existing techniques. Where proposals intend to address problems with a complex mix of organisational and technical issues which need to be addressed, it is likely that appropriate multidisciplinary teams will be required.
Proposals should explain how significant impact on industry and commerce would be achieved, should the suggested approach prove successful, and so should describe exploitation strategies. Since the non-academic partners should - one presumes - be seeking to change in some way so as to make use of the results, their own activities leading toward this should be described in the work-programme along with their work with the academic partners.
In addition to full collaborative proposals, we have also invited proposals for other forms of project which would add value to the programme. These include networks, feasibility studies, and exploratory theoretical studies.
While proposers have been asked to try to stay within the usual 2+6+1 page format (capability, case, and Gannt chart), they are asked primarily to make, in the case, a strong and clear argument for the proposed work. This may well take a form like problem, suggested solution, the research, exploitation strategy and work-programme, rather than the usual headings with which some referees will be familiar. (Note: since this guidance was issued, we have gained confidence in this approach. If anything, it seems that the 'usual' sub-headings - Background, Programme and methodology. Relevance to beneficiaries, Dissemination and exploitation, Justification of resources - actually detract from the clarity of proposals for this programme. So, we are now taking a firmer line and strongly recommend a structure which follows the flow of argument approximating to that implied by 'Bob's key questions'. All the information required by the usual headings should be given, but it should be evident anyway from a properly made case. E.g 'relevance to beneficiaries' should be blindingly obvious without any need for a section called that. 'Justification of resources' should be evident from the details of the work programme.)
Also, the scale and novelty of proposals which we seek may require extensive justification, and we recommend that while proposers should try to stay within the 6 page limit for the essence of the case, additional material may be provided in annexes. (Essentially, anything which does not directly contribute to the 'flow' of the story should be relegated to an annex. Thus one might have annexes for technical background, details of company programmes into which the research fits, additional work programme details, and so on.)
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