The Product Development Academy builds upon initiatives taken more than 20 years ago in the product development area, which resulted in research programs such as ENDREA, ProViking and several other adjacent research initiatives, financed by Swedish research agencies such as Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (Stiftelsen för Strategisk Forskning) and VINNOVA. These programs have created strong academic-industry networks that constitutes the platform for future important development of this area in Sweden, with Nordic and international collaborations.
In a joint effort, professors representing Swedish Product Development academia, identify a need to, via research, enhance product development capabilities for manufacturing industries. This is driven by the dynamics of global marketplaces, shorter product lifecycles, multifunctional complex systems, radical advancements in technologies, and concern for sustainable development. These conditions fundamentally challenge established theory and practice in product development, as well as their successful deployment.
Excellence in research is needed to lead the transition of engineering product development (EPD).
In parallel, advancements through digitalization, automation, additive and instant manufacturing provide new opportunities to develop products and services. These means and resources need to be thoroughly understood and included into product development practices for developers with manufacturing output to maintain their leading positions.
Sweden has a strong tradition of high-quality products and advanced systems, realized by excellent engineering competences both in academia and industry. Physical products need to be designed and built even more innovatively since they continue to be the differentiating base for manufactures offering new products and services. In parallel, expectations on safety and reliability are in focus and require new ambitious approaches to master the increased complexity of next generation systems. To meet these future challenges we are convinced that the product development research that Sweden has invested in over the years in national research environments need to be raised to yet a new, internationally recognized level. It is well understood that access to research and development competence is a decisive factor for manufacturing companies to invest in Sweden.
In proportion to the population, Swedish manufacturing industry has a global footprint met by few other countries of its size. Continued success relies on the ability to transform and to re-new industrial businesses – something that depends on skilled, knowledgeable and brave leaders and co-workers. Sweden needs to build on its successful tradition of bridging excellence in research, education and application through a national program enabling transformation of the manufacturing industry. This requires investment in science and technology, where also the innovative power of smaller and newer companies is supported and integrated into new products, and eventually new industries. It also requires an even stronger international collaboration both on making research education a more international concern, and on successfully attracting internationally prominent researchers to our universities and also sending people abroad on mobility programs.
All to secure global competitiveness.
Current trends (Automation, Digitalization, and more) are key drivers for new and changed practices. Examples on their relation to EPD are:
- Digitalization: “Design space exploration” and similar novel constructs can contribute to a step change in EPD.
- Advancements in materials and manufacturing processes: Their radical nature challenges current EPD practices.
- Societal aspects: How to bring sustainable aspects into EPD, where 70-80% of the product life-cycle behavior is determined, is not well understood today.
- Complexity and multidisciplinarity: EPD research need to be re-enforced to bring inter-disciplinary excellence together and ensure functionality, safety and reliability of increasingly complex systems.
The ability for Sweden to further develop and leverage on these trends is a key to stay in the forefront on research, development and eventually industrial competitiveness in the years to come. Collaboration between different research areas and together with industry has already been proven effective when organized on a national level.
We argue for a national effort to raise competitiveness and competence through excellence in research, research education, and internationalization, in primarily four dimensions of EPD;
- Engineering design of concepts, systems and product architecture
- Design automation and digital engineering
- Design for safe and sustainable life cycle behavior
- Engineering innovation and management