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Research methodology and approach

The KNOWNET project will be implemented in 3 phases.

In Phase one, the consortium partners will engage in exchanging knowledge to initially develop, build and test an interactive Supplier Social network, and then conduct parallel trials in the UK and Spain to assess its knowledge transfer capability.

In Phase two, the consortium will identify ‘optimal knowledge exchange and transfer tools, applications and exercises within the immersive 3D environment, subsequent to evaluating user engagement and knowledge transfer capability of the provisional integrated system.

Phase three will measure knowledge adoption and transfer capability within the revised framework, prior to finalising the platform.

Prior to the build of the provisional SSN, all 3 teams will be engaged in exchanging background knowledge in order to develop the platform in WP3. As part of WP2, the project will also carry out social network analysis (SNA) techniques to model knowledge flows across the multi levels of the Supply chain in advance of the build. The SNA modelling should reveal the structural properties of the network and the implications of these structural properties for the design of social network based systems. This will include the use of two different but complementary techniques to assess information flows within social networks. Firstly, the use of the roster-recall method, involves presenting to the interviewees a complete list of companies, who are then interviewed about their relationships with each of them. This data is then complemented with data from secondary sources (publications and reports from the main business associations, as well as relevant databases) to guarantee their validity.

Secondly, the application of social network analysis techniques using the UCINET v 6 program, with the aim of analyzing the structure of the inter-organizational links or relationships will be conducted. This technique has previously been proposed as being appropriate for the study of business networks, and there have been numerous studies which have used this method to study local production systems, industrial districts and innovation (Borgatti 2009). The output from WP 2 is a conceptual model which will be used to inform the design and build of the SSN platform.

The largest work package of KNOWNET is WP3, which involves designing, building and testing the 3D interactive SSN framework. Synergies and complementary skills across the consortium members will be identified and utilised across many activities within this WP. Specific expertise and skills of Drs Makatsoris and Gustafson-Pearce, together with the BU recruit in software engineering (BU) will be employed to plan, map, build and test the provisional SSN platform. RSA are expected to exchange knowledge via presentations and discussion groups via workshops and conference calls with suppliers, to support the appropriate design and build of the platform, and take account of industry needs, requirements and IT current capability. Experiences and knowledge in managing current RSA supply chain networking will also be exchanged between teams.

A workshop will be hosted by RSA where Dr Gustafson-Pearce will present and demonstrate material on 3D interactive tools and techniques for learning and knowledge sharing. Physical training of elected candidates (hand holding) in the management and use of these interactive tools and applications within the platform, will take place once the build is complete. This training will be run by BU. Dr Capo Vicedo from UPV will also be present at the workshop to take up knowledge in platform management and use, as well as to deliver SNA techniques and analyses to BU and RSA in the early stages of the secondment.

A major task within this WP will be to identify the best ‘web tools, range of team building activities, and exercises’ capable of promoting the sharing of good ideas, and knowledge transfer through social interaction. A variety of different tools, processes and activities will be tested (iteratively) to identify the optimum mix and range. This will follow from the initial field trial and evaluation of the trial results. The provisional SSN will be revised in the light of these findings.

A knowledge transfer evaluation/measuring tool will be developed in this WP. Data collected via this tool, will enable the teams to measure and assess the degree of knowledge transfer, generation and learning taking place. Data collection will commence once the provisional platform is up and running and will be collected via an on-line feedback tool, and logging facility. The logging facility will monitor and log data on supplier engagement and usage, and will complement a survey/interviews on supplier satisfaction and attitudes to interaction within an ‘immersive’ environment. The online survey (or interviews in person) is designed to examine not only attitudes towards ease of use, satisfaction etc with the tools, but also ascertain the acquisition of new content (via leaning by doing), the acquisition of new insights (via learning from others, discussion) etc, and to assess and measure the ability of participants to adopt and implement new content gained from interacting with other participants and with web tools and applications. The findings from the second trials in phase 3 will define the generic constructs of the ‘knowledge sharing SSN’ that can be useful across other domestic domains, as well as refine the evaluation tool. These activities together with a detailed comparison of results across parallel trials from the two countries will constitute Activities 9 and 10 and contribute to finalising the platform.

WP4 Field Trials A4 and A8

Work package 4 will involve a number of activities. These include defining and preparing the requirements that will be set up prior to the field trials (online interactive orientation and familiarisation workshops). BU will be working closely with RSA to define the target suppliers, activities and duration of the trials in the UK. UPV will be working closely with a parallel supply chain in Spain’s insurance market to define similar requirements prior to running the trials in Spain.
The findings from the parallel trials will enable researchers to explore structural, relational (using SNA analysis) and cultural differences across the 2 countries Insurance supply chains.

WP5 and WP6 Dissemination and Exploitation

Work packages 5 and 6 involve activities around the dissemination of information about the nature of the project and the expected results. The aim being to raise awareness of the project developments to the widest possible range of actors that would be interested, to illustrate an exploitation strategy which would be incorporated in the existing commercial activities of the project partners, and to create alliances with different categories of stakeholders.
Dissemination activities will commence with the start of the project and continue throughout its lifecycle, this will be achieved via a range of routes such as industry workshops and forums, academic conferences and publications: industry internal blogs and outreach activities. A full list of dissemination activities is presented on page 28 of this document.

Risk Management and Contingency

As a preliminary phase for risk management, the KNOWNET consortium has compiled a list of risks that could be identified before the start of the project within each of the work packages. These risks and a contingency plan are summarised within the work package description section on pg 14 of this document.

Synergies and complementarities between the Consortium partners

One of the objectives of the proposed project is to ‘provide an opportunity for developing a long term strategic partnership between industrial and academic sectors’. As the SSN framework will be developed via the inter-sectoral collaboration between industrial and academic partners, it will need to address the needs from both sectors and provide ongoing opportunity where both the sectors organizations can collaborate for the update of the model in the future.

Brunel University will contribute to the project by providing the theoretical background and web design and build of the SSN framework. Brunel’s team has expertise in designing and building virtual environments,
virtual learning and knowledge exchange, software engineering, supply chain management and knowledge management ( Brunel has pioneered virtual learning and knowledge exchange, being among the first and leading Universities in the UK to deploy e-learning technology via its ‘Virtual Brunel’ platform, supporting both full time and distance learning students. This team skill set will be a key factor taking this project forward.

Universitat Politecnica De Valencia will bring to the project their expertise in Social Network Analysis techniques for the purpose of analysing and representing the structure of the inter-organizational links and the knowledge flows between suppliers in a multi-level supply chain. Their expertise is particularly strong in analysing knowledge flows for supply chains consisting mainly of SME’s. This expertise is crucial to the project because economic systems based on small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are an important barrier for transitions from traditional economies to knowledge-based ones, even though there is the recognition that knowledge is one of the most decisive factors capable of offering competitive advantages for supply chain partners. The group from UPV also posses expertise in inter-organizational networking, knowledge networking within industrial districts, operations research and production management.

Royal Sun Alliance is a global insurer and the second-largest general insurer in the United Kingdom. The RSA team headed by Neil Gilbertson, will bring expertise on the current state of knowledge networking across UK insurance supply chains, and recent initiatives on collaboration and e-claims in motor insurance supply chains, to the project. The private sector partners have been championing knowledge management initiatives across the Group within a number of insurance areas, but particularly within Motor insurance and home insurance within the UK. Mr Neil Gilbertson is a Principal Supply Relationship Management consultant at RSA, Horsham UK and is responsible for SRM in UK and has links into Europe so is well positioned for this project.

The KNOWNET consortium has been selected to bring together the skills, experience and expertise necessary to define and understand all the aspects of the knowledge transfer research and e-learning domain, as well as to specify and build the enabling applications, exercises and supporting tools that will allow development and deployment of a SSN framework. Each partner has unique competencies and knowhow, but all of them acknowledge that a fruitful co-operation and cross fertilisation between the several roles, disciplines and countries can be achieved. In addition, it should be noted that good and ongoing relationships already exist among some partners of the consortium, which are expected to be valuable for a quick kick-off of the project, as well as for a smooth running of the operations throughout the project lifecycle.
Thus the KNOWNET consortium demonstrates:

  • Outstanding scientific and technological expertise required to deliver an innovative, still technologically mature set of high-quality concepts, technologies, methods and tools.
  • Determination to undertake the project and successfully complete it.
  • Complementarity of skills.
  • Cohesion, through the combination of the available theoretical knowledge with the practical experience of the partners.
  • Dedication to the best possible quality of the project outputs and deliverables.
  • Sound management and technical structures.
  • Competence in dissemination and exploitation interests and activities, guaranteeing the project’s impact.
  • Knowledge of the general and special requirements of the European Commission and the IAPP programme.
  • Long-standing experience (both at institutional and personal level) in running, coordinating, managing, and successfully completing joint R&D projects – national and international, of different size.
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