Cambride University exterior
A view from University of Cambridge, where the MMEP SIG Conference on modeling and management of engineering processes​ was held and the workshop took place at the Engineering Design Center. Photo: Massimo Panarotto

The future of research in design processes - Cambrigde report


The MMEP SIG workshop on modelling and management of engineering processes. It gathered participants from Universities across Europe working with research on design processes. Professor Ola Isaksson and Massimo Panarotto (senior researcher) from Systems Engineering Design Research Group​, Chalmers University of Technology were on site and here is their report:
​“Industry see the value of improving the design process […] we see the same trend in production and software development, where industry is measuring the quality of the process to assess the quality of the outcome”.
This is one of the reflections made by him and other participants of the MMEP SIG workshop ​held at the Engineering Design Centre at University of Cambridge the 5-6 November 2018 and organized by the Design Society​. Chalmers was present with the Systems Engineering Design Research Group. ​
There is a growing industrial interest to reduce development lead times and making better decisions - in a business environment that is bringing in new digital, electrical and autonomous technologies at a rapid pace. There is an increased interest on improving the design process to ensure the ability of making better products. 
Despite this interest, the introduction of new methods and tools into industrial design practice is traditionally slow despite them being demonstrated as having a good impact when used. This, and other challenges facing research into management of engineering design processes was discussed.



(Picture above) Issues and reflections were identified and clustered

What is the future (and the role) of academic research in design processes?
The MMEP workshop focused on these issues, with the purpose of promoting a bi-directional interest from universities and industry to develop and introduce together new design methods and tools. As input to the workshop was the results from a workshop at Chalmers in September, where industrialists met academics to discuss the needs of the future. 
Issues were listed and clustered in order to make some preliminary observations, which will be further refined and published in a report.

Some of the preliminary takeaways from the workshop are:
1. The impact of the methods developed at universities is often as "eye opener", rather than something directly implementable in an industrial environment.
2. In cases where implementation works, it is often the result of very long and close collaboration between a research team and a specific company and/or in close association with, for example, a spin-off company. 
3. It is dangerous to expect doctoral students to produce scientific quality and at the same time to make an immediate industrial impact. This is difficult for PhD students who are at the same time learning on how to become independent researchers.   
4. Universities can use their more free role (compared to industry) to focus on longer-term issues, and to develop methods with better scalability and durability, driven by stronger theoretical foundations - where industry must inevitably take shortcuts in their daily business instead

Outside work, there was also time for some sightseeing. 

(Picture above) Professor Ola Isaksson in front of Christ’s college, where Charles Darwin studied.


For more info, contact:

Professor, Systems Engineering Design Research Group
Dept. Industrial and Materials Science

Senior Researcher, Systems Engineering Design Research Group
Dept. Industrial and Materials Science

Published: Fri 09 Nov 2018. Modified: Sun 11 Nov 2018