Chapter 6 Lessons learned

As indicated above, five test cases and one study were launched in March 1993. The purpose of the test cases and the study was to test the feasibility of international collaboration and to perform genuine R&D.

The balance of the five test cases and the one study selected by the ISC allowed a diverse range of work to be studied. There were three examples of state-of-the-art studies, two cases of generic research work with long-range implications and one which could be judged to be a feasibility study for a major initiative in the process industries. The regional interests in these test cases were well balanced, as was the distribution of international coordinators.

The lessons learned are presented in three sections. Firstly, the lessons learned by the consortia which carried out the test cases are reported. Secondly, the conclusions through the monitoring and assessment of the test cases are given, and thirdly general lessons learned by the international committees are reported.

6.1 Lessons learned as reported by the test case consortia

The conditions required for success in carrying out international R&D are largely the same as in regional or national collaborative projects. From the outset, it is essential that all partners have a clear understanding of and assume common ownership of project goals, project organization and operational mechanisms, and allocation of responsibilities.

The test case management teams discovered a need for both project management and collaboration management. In several cases, management structures organized along regional lines without regard to the organization of collaborative work needed to be realigned to reflect the cooperative work structure as well. Future consortia would do well to recognize the duality of management needs and address them in proposed management structures.

In general, the test cases needed more time than the 90 days available in the feasibility study for defining the collaborative work and consortium agreement. The composition of the consortium is considered to be very important and it was indicated that there might be a need for a `contact' service which would provide effective support in consortium building. Building of trust through face-to-face meetings is essential especially in the early stages of proposal and project building. The communication between the international committees, the secretariats and the test case consortia could be improved.

All test cases reported initial but minor difficulties that needed to be overcome in order to arrive at effective collaboration. These problems related to language barriers, cultural differences and differences in technical and management culture. All test cases reported that these difficulties were rapidly overcome. In this, the role of clear communication was stressed, through face-to-face meetings but also by extensive use of e-mail, voice, fax, video and teleconferencing. A number of test cases produced a glossary of terms which enabled better communication, developed project documentation standards and a who's who list.

Two major difficulties/barriers were highlighted in almost all test cases. These were uncertainties about possible funding of test case participants and the overheads involved in international co-operation. The differences amongst regions in funding policies was considered to be an actuality that had to be dealt with in international collaboration.

Uncertainties about the availability of funding because of time pressures did cause difficulties. In some test cases, partners dropped out of consortia when funding did not become available. This could be handled by allowing more time to form consortia and funding sources, and allowing consortia members to join on a contingency basis so that all members know of the possibility of a drop out.

The test cases estimated the burden of overhead related to international co-operation to be about 25 percent. Several test cases found that the overhead can be reduced by use of modern communication means and by learning from in-person experience. However, it is thought that overhead will remain a substantial cost in a full-scale program.

A further difficulty, related to IPR in particular, was the mandatory character of the IPR Guidelines for test cases and especially the mandatory licensing of background rights. It was stated by some of the consortia that in general there was insufficient communication with and support to the partners to enable full understanding of the IPR Guidelines. In this respect, clarity in documentation is of utmost importance and a clear articulation between mandatory and optional IPR rules is needed. There was agreement on the necessity of explanatory notes to complement IPR provisions. However, there was no agreement on the necessity of a model co-operation agreement. The test case consortia indicated the test cases did not expect to test the foreground provisions. Furthermore, the delicate position of universities and some research laboratories, particularly in cases of already-issued exclusive licenses, caused concern.

All test cases gave a positive evaluation of the IMS experience. Some test cases clearly indicated that co-operation in selected domains between subsets of the partners would continue beyond the IMS feasibility study irrespective of a full-scale IMS program. Benefits reported include:

In a formal survey of all consortia participants the following summary recommendations were developed. To conclude, the test cases indicated that cultural and communication problems are not insurmountable and that international collaboration can be beneficial, with special attention required to keep overhead due to international collaboration low. The test cases recommended that the time between the end of the feasibility study and the initiation of a full-scale IMS program should be minimized.

6.2 Lessons learned in the assessment of test cases

The test case program was industrially relevant and demonstrated that an international research program in the highly competitive area of manufacturing could be operated. The existence of international committees and an international secretariat system has fostered a better understanding of each region and their cultures with respect to collaboration in IMS-related efforts. This cultural diversity fostered an improved understanding of manufacturing paradigms.

The test case program has demonstrated a methodology for broad-based international co-operation on manufacturing R&D and infrastructure areas. The IMS feasibility study has been a good experimental vehicle for exploring and learning how to co-operate on an international scale. The process of operating the program has opened up many new avenues of potential co-operation in and beyond the current test cases and provided unique partnering opportunities for industries.

The umbrella of IMS is important as a catalyst to form networks and to resolve potential conflicts. The process of using regional secretariats to facilitate the development and sharing of expressions of interest and capabilities assisted consortia formation, but the procedures need to be improved.

Any future program needs a clearer description of expectations and mechanisms for project review and critical assessment. Intellectual property issues remained a problem in most cases. The development of issues to be considered in an IPR agreement and models for how to achieve specific IPR objectives chosen by the consortia needs further development. The granting of conditional go-aheads in case of non-compliant consortium co-operation agreement may have been justified for the IMS feasibility study but would have to be avoided in a full-scale program. The main merit of the IPR Guidelines has been that the Guidelines were effective in urging proposers to address IPR issues up-front. Also there appears to be acceptance worldwide of the definitions used in the IPR Guidelines. Sufficient feedback from the test cases on IPR issues has been obtained, and this experience is incorporated in the proposed IPR provisions for a full-scale IMS program.

While successful co-operation was demonstrated among large companies, SMEs and universities in most cases, special consideration needs to be given to facilitate the involvement of SMEs and universities. Co-operation tended to be more horizontal, i.e. university - university, vendor - vendor or user - user rather than vertical, i.e. vendor - user or supplier - customer. It is noteworthy that the involvement of SMEs increased as the test cases progressed. Key people from the partner organizations were involved early in test case formation and continued to play an important role in the conduct of the test cases.

The objectives set by the consortia at the outset of the test cases will be met. However, the question of a broad-based and evenhanded distribution of results had turned out to be beyond the scope of the feasibility experiment and still needs to be addressed in the full-scale IMS program.

Variability and uncertainty in funding availability was a problem. However, in spite of this the consortia were able to proceed. Means should be found to remove the problem and accommodate the situation arising out of the mismatch of regional funding mechanisms.

6.3 Lessons learned from international committee work

6.3.1 Lessons learned by the ISC from international committee work

The international committees operated in a clearly defined context where their recommendations were driven by perceived needs and objective assessment of priorities. While the three-committee structure handling IMS issues was felt to have been a good experience, a leaner and more agile structure should be used in a full-scale IMS program.

The international committees operated by consensus and this worked through trust and respect. A full-scale program should continue the process of reaching `consensus' rather than voting in decision making. While this may be a slower process up-front, it will speed up implementation and action in the long term.

IMS and its committees have been a good experimental vehicle for exploring how to cooperate on an international scale.

6.3.2 Lessons learned by the ITC from international committee work

The ITC operated in a clearly defined context and, as the ISC, arrived at its decisions by consensus working through trust and respect. The ITC made good use of working groups that progressed issues in parallel sessions at ITC meetings or in between ITC meetings through extensive communication.

The ITC was instrumental in setting up an international assessment process and in this respect was the main interlocutor for the test cases. The direct interaction with the test case partners proved to be very instructive.

The ITC members were very knowledgeable in the field of manufacturing and manufacturing research and all had experience in international cooperation. This facilitated rapid progress and the committee succeeded in completing the task it was given within the stringent time limit of the feasibility study. Technical themes for both the IMS feasibility study and a full scale program were developed having due consideration to the driving forces in manufacturing and considering the infrastructure and policy enablers. Guidance given by the ISC was important. The interactions between the ITC and the IIPRC were invaluable in learning how to conduct international collaborations.

6.3.3 Lessons learned by the IIPRC from international committee work

The IIPRC operated in a clearly defined context. Its task was challenging and complex, but very necessary. The IIPRC arrived at its decisions by consensus and worked through trust and respect. The IIPRC members were knowledgeable in the domain and brought together a wealth of expertise from around the world.

The discussions at IIPRC focused on understanding the various business practices of the Participants and on drafting IPR provisions that could accommodate these practices, provide sufficient support for collaborative research and development, and be understandable. Given the time that was available, the IIPRC succeeded in carrying out its tasks. Clear guidance given by the ISC provided to be very important as was interaction with the ITC.

The direct interaction with the legal counsellors involved in drafting the cooperation agreements of the test cases proved instructive. At the IIPRC4 meeting, the IIPRC proposed establishing a task force, the Follow-Up Group (FUG), to review and study IPR-related issues related to the test cases in detail. The ISC accepted this proposal and the FUG was formed. Amongst various findings, the FUG highlighted the need for clear and simple procedures for approving cooperation agreements and the need for clear documents with sufficient explanatory texts.

Good working relations among IIPRC members were rapidly established which facilitated the work of the IIPRC.

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