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Phil Davies, Research Degrees PhD

CADE, the Italian way

For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of organising The Competitive Advantage in the Digital Economy (CADE) Forum on behalf of the Service Systems Group. CADE is an exclusive three-day forum held in Venice, Italy, bringing together PhD students, early career researchers and practitioners working within the digital economy.

The 2017 CADE forum became a global event, with applicants from beyond Europe including America and Australia, highlighting the increased importance of the digital economy and the relevance and popularity of CADE. This year, CADE merged with the existing WMG Service Systems Forum to form a single forum, with the discussion topics being “Smart Service Systems, Digital Innovation, Privacy and Trust”.

cade_2017.jpgThe opportunity to organise CADE again was one I grabbed with both hands. It is an excellent addition to the CV. Yes, a PhD is a big statement, but organising a forum that attracts participants from around the globe, boasts a range of outstanding keynote speakers and allows you the opportunity to apply for grant money, is the real currency your CV needs when heading out into the overcrowded job market.

This kind of opportunity is somewhat rare for a PhD student. To be given such freedom on how to organise a forum of 30 participants plus the keynotes and organising committee is a huge responsibility. Luckily for me, I had another excellent PhD student helping co-organise the event and an extremely supportive PhD supervisor and department. Secondly, organising the keynote speakers provided an excellent opportunity to network with established academics within the research community.

At times, as a PhD student, it is easy to blend into the crowd, and with so many people now entering the same job market, it is important to make yourself known. CADE has really helped with this as it has given me access to esteemed scholars and the chance to form healthy relationships. Furthermore, not only has it helped on a professional level, but personally too. Approaching esteemed scholars, as a doctoral student, is always quite daunting.

The research community is extremely supportive of doctoral students, and while they may be at the top of their game with thousands of citations and a plethora of papers, it is important to remember they were once a doctoral student without a single paper or citation. CADE brings together like-minded individuals working in an extremely important, but still relatively new in the academic field to form synergies and collaborations that otherwise might not have occurred. It is a fantastic environment to watch professional relationships form, ideas blossom and future research opportunities develop. Knowing that you have helped organise this, and are in part responsible for these scholars coming together provides a fantastic sense of achievement.

After all, the name of the game is to advance knowledge and whilst I may not be directly contributing to some of the research opportunities that form, it is in part a result of and a real testament not only to the service systems group, but to the WMG culture as a whole.

My advice for a doctoral student? If you are comfortable at managing your workload, and are provided with an opportunity like this, take it. However, do not for one moment that it will be easy! You have to be extremely patient, think of contingency plans (things will go wrong!), and make sure you understand the time required to organise such an event.

That said, for me, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, and if asked to do it again, my answer would be yes! Bring on CADE 2018!

Focusing on product architecture

My research is entitled: “The Exploitation of Additive Layer Manufacturing for the Manufacture of Components for Armoured Fighting Vehicles.” My research is sponsored by the Engineering Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) iCase (Industrial Case) award in collaboration with BAE Systems Land (UK).

My research looks at how firms can design for use and the challenges associated with doing so, specifically focusing on product architectures. Traditionally, firms drew the boundary for design at the point of exchange, for instance design requirements were generated up until the point the product rolled off the manufacturing floor and was transferred to the customer with the assumption that requirements were static at the point of use.

Creating this boundary allowed firms to ignore the variety associated with the customers’ consumption space with this boundary being more convenient for the firm as the product architecture was only concerned with modularisation of their physical products components, ignoring contextual factors such as the customer, their environment and other resources in context.

This research, in collaboration with BAE Systems Land (UK), seeks to explore how changing this boundary to incorporate the customers’ consumption space affects architectural strategies (i.e. modular and integral architectures).

This moves architectural strategies beyond simple product component interactions to interactions with the customer, and their contexts of use. The second half of this study, building on the first, seeks to explore the use of 3D printing.

Phil Davies

Phil Davies, PhD candidate