Taking back the reins for innovative product design
The EU-funded project 'Virtual research lab for a knowledge community in production' (VRL KCIP) set up a Network of Excellence to consolidate the experience, know-how and expertise of European researchers in the fields of design, production and innovation. The lasting results of this initiative will work to preserve common manufacturing processes and at the same time put into effect a collaborative system of design that integrates a module of virtual production. VRL KCIP work initially focused on creating various tools for internal communication among network members. These tools included a website and intranet, the Smarteam Knowledge Management System (KMS) for storing documents and expertise and competencies of members, and a complete video conferencing system for sharing applications and streaming files. The project’s vision was to bring its network members together in a long-lasting European structure for better industry efficiency, to meet societal needs, and boost the potential for sustainability. Work conducted over the duration of the four-year initiative resulted in a knowledge map and competence profile of expertise of each network member. Building on this map, a competence structure was developed, representing the intellectual capability of the network and providing input for defining research strategy. An expertise tree was used, among other applications, to create expertise maps of the network’s members, classify all knowledge objects, and provide a platform for yellow pages capability realised in the KMS and as facilitator for the VRL KCIP website content. Expertise maps were also developed, as was collaboration mapping capability, which improved insight into the expertise of single members or labs as well as cooperation and collaboration between different labs. The collaboration maps not only indicate current topics of interest and state-of-the-art research, but also point to the project’s ultimate success and realisation of its goals.