Doctoral Research about Collaborative Product Development

News April 17, 2012 11:02 pm

Alongside Anja Maier, my research supervisor at DTU Management Engineering, we started 4 months ago an exciting 3 years journey that I hope will bring interesting new material to this site. The aim is to better understand the process of collaborative product development through the lenses of engineering design, all of these contextualised in the dynamic Danish cleantech industry.

The short title of the PhD project is “Co-Creation Dynamics in Collaborative Networks”. The research efforts will be centred in the co-creation dynamics that arise in collaborative networks. More specifically, in the co-development activities and processes at the interface between research, design and manufacturing. Of special interest are the inter-organisational and inter-disciplinary interactions because of their significant potential for disruptive innovations. In order to ground this study in a specific industry, the Danish Cleantech Cluster has been selected due to characteristics such as its attractive industrial knowledge diversity; the amount of high-tech research, design and manufacturing activity in Danish territory; the constantly evolving nature of the products and services produced; and the significance of this industry in terms of the strategic development of the country.

The main concern relates with the collaborative interactions in socio-technical systems that allow the co-development of new products and services. This means that the subjects of study are people and the systems that facilitate (or hinder) their interactions, particularly at the communicational level. The actors involved are mainly designers, engineers, applied researchers and their immediate managerial layer as well as innovation intermediaries (for example people involved in technology transfer and open innovation initiatives). To narrow down the scope to an actionable level, the study is restricted to activities concerning the collaborative development of new products requiring interactions outside the traditional organisational boundaries in a “business to business” environment.

Considering the research context and its area of concern, two key conceptual frameworks and research communities have been targeted to provide the required framework for the study; engineering design and collaborative innovation networksThe engineering design tradition of new product development and communication in design, provides robust theoretical tools to understand how designers and engineers create new products. It has a comprehensive literature describing the process of developing new products in teams, and is based on the deep understanding of the creation dynamics, from the conceptualization to the functional prototype. Despite its strengths, there is still an important space to contribute in terms of the interfaces between research, design and manufacturing, particularly when they happen in networks crossing existent organisational boundaries.

Collaborative innovation networks, a comparatively more recent research space, explores the dynamics that individuals establish in networks in order to innovate. This discipline offers a wide set of tools and approaches to study networks of collaboration and encapsulates learning from different domains. This allows to explore how actors collaborate to generate impact at the societal, industrial and at the firm level. Its weakness lies in the lack of understanding of the industrial design process as such, which generates and interesting opportunity for research bridging both areas.

For more information about this research you can download here the latest poster and subscribe to the new posts adding writing your email in the box in the right of this post. I Hope you enjoy and find useful what it is to come!

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