Skip to main content

Innovation and Knowledge Transfer Networks

I'm very pleased to say that our Knowledge Transfer Network, Grid Computing Now!, will continue to operate for at least another year. We have just received final confirmation from the newly-reconstituted Technology Strategy Board. This is welcome news; it means that we can continue our plans to bring users, vendors and academics together to address real problems in several sectors. So it seems a good moment to reflect on the state of KTNs and how they might develop.

Innovate07 was the showcase for all 22 Knowledge Transfer Networks. This was my first time at Innovate and I was impressed by the range of technologu areas and delegates. It was also a good opportunity for networking between KTNs, which has led to some joint initiatives.

This range of KTNs is in part a branding exercise, as some KTNs had previous existences as Faraday Institutes or other institutes. So we at GCN are in the odd position of being one of the first KTNs to be set up and at the same time among the ones that have been operating for the shortest period! For once, I think the branding works well, presenting a breadth of expertise available to UK industry.

In the GCN KTN, our activities are gradually moving from general outreach into more focused engagement in specific projects. In our first two years, we were mainly building our network of contacts, collecting our set of case studies and producing webinars. Over the past year, we've begun to engage more in specific sectors and issues such as tranaport modelling, software licencing and Green IT. This is a deliberate move that we will continue in the new year by setting up specialist interest groups within the KTN. This brings our modus operandi closer to that of some of the other KTNs.

Even so, it's important that our contacts and our funders realise that different KTNs work in different ways. For example, the Applied Maths KTN runs an excellent series of intensive workshops in which mathematicians work on industrial problems, often making substantial progress in the course of that week. That approach works well for mathematics but is not suitable when it comes to building new IT infrastructures!

The aim of all this, of course, is to stimulate innovation. By its very nature, innovation is hard to codify; the best we can do is to bring people together in an environment that stimulates new ideas and rewards their exploitation. So one thing I'd like the TSB to do is to set up KTNs in less established areas - a key example being alternative energy. Within the existing KTNs, it's our job to look for the new ideas to pass on to potential exploiters, and to look for business problems that can be solved with innovative ideas. It's not easy but it is certainly interesting!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Changing Principles

In EA, architecture principles set a framework for making architectural decisions.  They help to establish a common understanding across different groups of stakeholders, and provide guidance for portfolios and projects.  Michael Durso of the LSE gave a good introduction to the idea in a webinar last week for the UCISA EA community.

Many organisations take the TOGAF architecture principles as a starting point.  These are based on the four architectural domains of TOGAF: business, information/data, applications, technology/infrastructure.  These principles tend to describe what should be done, e.g. re-use applications, buy in software rather than build it, keep data secure.  See for example the principles adopted at Plymouth University and the University of Birmingham.

Recently though, I encountered a different way of looking at principles.  The user experience design community tend to focus more on how we should do things.  E.g. we should start with user needs, use iterative developm…

Why the UCISA Capability Model is useful

What do Universities do?

This may seem a strange question to ask and the answer may seem obvious.  Universities educate students and undertake research.  And perhaps they work with industrial partners and create spin-off companies of their worn.  And they may work with local communities, and affiliation bodies for certain degress, and they definitely report on their activities to government bodies such as HEFCE.  They provide student services and support.  The longeryou think about it, the more things you can think of that a University does.

In business, the things that an organisation does are called "capabilities", which is a slightly strange term.  I think it is linked to the HR idea of a combination of the CAPacity and ABILITY to do a task.  Whatever the name, it is a useful concept.  A capability is more basic than a process: a University may change the way it educates students but as long as it remains a University it will educate them one way or another.

A capability …

A brief summary of our major initiatives

I notice that in 2016 I wrote 34 posts on this blog.  This is only my fifth post in 2017 and we're already three-quarters of the way through the year.  Either I've suddenly got lazier, or else I've had less time to spend writing here.  As I'm not inclined to think of myself as especially lazy, I'm plumping for the latter explanation.

There really is a lot going on.  The University has several major initiatives under way, many of which need input from the Enterprise Architecture section.

The Service Excellence programme is overhauling (the buzzword is "transforming") our administrative processes for HR, Finance, and Student Administration.  Linked to this is a programme to procure an integrated ERP system to replace the adminstrative IT systems. 

Enabling Digital Transformation is a programme to put the middleware and architecture in place so that we can make our processes "digital first".  We're implementing an API framework, a notification…