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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K008196/1
Title: Inter-disciplinary Engineering Approach to Systems (IdEAS)
Principal Investigator: Crilly, Dr N
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Engineering
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 September 2013 Ends: 31 August 2019 Value (£): 1,217,208
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Engineering Design Processes
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 Nov 2012 Manufacturing the Future Fellowships Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Emerging technologies are science-based innovations with the potential to create, transform or obsolete entire industries. Examples range from 'small-tech' materials constructed at the atomic level through to 'large-tech' infrastructures enabled by the internet and other complex systems. Irrespective of their physical scale, emerging technologies have the potential to drive and support sustained economic growth. For some of these technologies, the projected markets for the middle of the 2020s are enormous: hundreds of billions of US dollars each for nanomaterials, smart grids, industrial biotechnology and plastic electronics. In these areas and others, the UK is in a strong position to lead technology development and commercial exploitation. In particular, small businesses which are so vital to employment and economic stability are well placed to capitalise on technological innovation because of their relative agility. However, realising these opportunities critically depends on the capacity to translate scientific advances and technological developments into product ideas that are suitable for manufacture, distribution and use.

Whilst emerging technologies can be entirely new, they most often result from new combinations of existing technologies, or are analogous to existing systems in some important way. The ability to identify and integrate knowledge, skills and processes from these other systems determines the rate at which the commercial and societal value of emerging technologies is realised. This entails design knowledge and design processes that are flexible and deployable across a broad range of rapidly changing technologies. However, because emerging technologies are potentially so disruptive, they pose a problem to traditional design methods. In particular, they present a three-part challenge of uncertainty, complexity and rapidity: uncertainty because there is no reliable foresight into what kind of technologies should be designed for; complexity because there is increasing interdependence between, and integration of, different types of systems; and rapidity because the rate at which new technologies are being introduced far outstrips the evolution of those previous technologies for which typical engineering design methods were developed.

Because designing for emerging technologies requires methods that can respond to uncertain, complex and rapid developments, there is a need for solution principles that are generally and readily applicable. Innovation could then be promoted if designers were able to review, combine and contrast these principles and apply them to specific technologies. This prompts the question: what design principles can best influence the development of engineering design methodologies for emerging technologies. The project will answer this question, by gaining an understanding of the underpinning systems that emerging technologies are made up of or built into. Multiple system types will be investigated, along with the attributes of those systems and the system behaviours that those attributes promote. Comparative analysis of industrial case studies will show how decisions are made about the trade-off of one principle against another, and will permit the development of guidance that is concrete and actionable. By doing so, the project will provide engineers with the cross-domain knowledge of systems that they require to design for newly emerging technologies and for technologies that have not yet been imagined.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.cam.ac.uk