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User-Centred Innovation for manufacturing: Roadmaps for Development

Final Report Summary - UCIM (User-Centred Innovation for manufacturing: Roadmaps for Development)

The realisation of a customer / user-driven innovation system has been identified by the Manufacture High Level group as a core element of a strategy enabling European industry's transition towards a knowledge-based, competitive and sustainable base. The insight that user and customer involvement into product design is highly profitable for companies has lead to the development of a number of concepts of 'co-design' involving users / stakeholders all along the design process.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the envisaged shift towards such user-centred innovation approaches implies major transitions for manufacturing. UCIM concepts directly link in to collaborative product development, but undoubtedly will have implications for collaborative value chain solutions and agile manufacturing.

Collaborative product development in which manufacturers are in closer contact with users will require collaboration between all players that now play a role between manufacturers and users or will introduce a new intermediary between them and users. In collaborative product development where different suppliers and producers work together other chain solutions must be thought of. Changes in chain solutions and manufacturing will require specific skills, competencies, technologies, and the like.

Within the UCIM project, the roadmapping method was applied as a specific foresight method suited to identify needs and requirements to enable collaborative product development. As input for the roadmapping exercise, and, more specifically, the visions that were used as a starting point for the roadmapping workshops, information was gathered on concepts of user-centred innovation available for and used in industry.

During the UCIM scenario workshops the project team designed various pathways for the involvement of users in different industries and shown some general industry wide characteristics for the adoption of UCIM scenarios. UCIM is relevant for a large number of industries ranging from low to high-tech sectors. Even though different scenarios and roadmaps were developed, all of them have a common feature; they require that technological, organisational and socio-economic development and transformations have to be developed. UCIM requires new technologies, business models and organisational structures along the entire value chain, and hence requires process, product and organisational innovations.

The UCIM project set out to advise policymakers how to support European manufacturing industry in meeting the challenges of user driven innovation. In particular, UCIM aimed to propose EU level research underpinning UCIM concepts in favour of sustainable and competitive manufacturing in Europe. Based on the results outlined above that capture the range of required policy measures and the results of discussions within the expert workshops the project team propose five UCIM support activity areas which could be adopted or co-ordinated by DG Research.

The activity areas are thematic fields where research and other complementing measures could focus on, in order to support user centred innovation in European industry. In each area, a number of measures to foster technological and organisational innovations towards UCIM as discussed above are synthesised. In addition, we recommend eight action lines to be adopted in support to user innovation.

The UCIM results were largely confirmed by the workshop participants. Potential to further develop the concepts outlined by UCIM was identified. A number of research needs and supportive measures needed to underpin the UCIM enablers were highlighted. In some aspects, cautioning remarks were made and substantial challenges highlighted.

To support dissemination UCIM developed an open web platform based on a blog structure and hosted on SDS servers. This web space has a blog-like structure allowing the posting of the progress of the research as articles with text, image and animations. Each article has a 'comment' button that allows external visitors to post their comments and thus interact with the research consortium.

The dissemination was supported during the Specific Support Action (SSA) and can be continued if the opening of the access is decided. The web space where the UCIM results are posted will then be accessible to external visitors that in return will be able post comments on it. It is intended that the platform can be visited by more and more experts, first invited and progressively by spontaneous visitors interested in the subject of UCIM. This process is intended to start an open web platform where exchanges take place beyond the interaction triggered by the consortium.

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