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Heydari Receives NSF CAREER Award

MIE Associate Professor Babak Heydari was awarded a $490K NSF CAREER grant in August 2018 for "Architecting Products to Balance Innovation and Competition in Business Ecosystems".


Abstract Source: NSF

This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant will test the hypothesis that technology firms can make strategic decisions about the architecture and modularity levels of systems and products, so that they can use distributed innovation networks while keeping their competitive advantage in the market. In a paradigm shift from the traditional model in which product development is driven by internal R&D activities, new product development in many technology firms today relies on distributed innovation. In distributed innovation, a large number of autonomous firms, individuals and communities form a network through their common connection with an underlying technical system. Outcomes of this research will significantly improve the ability of engineers and product developers to make strategic decisions regarding systems architecture, determine the degree of openness and modularity of product platforms, and make design decisions to trigger or strengthen long-lasting cycles of distributed innovation. This, in turn, will increase the social value of design through more informed strategic architecture decisions. This research builds on several disciplines including complex and social network analysis, game theory, engineering design and complex adaptive systems. The educational objectives include integration of the science of complex socio-technical networks with engineering design to create activities that foster interdisciplinary analytical thinking in current and future engineers.

To model the interaction of system architecture with dynamics of innovation and competition, a three-layer model will be developed. A unique aspect of the research is that it explores how to use explicit dynamic network representations of components, knowledge, and market competition, and the interaction between them to improve architecture decisions in order to maximize delivered value. In this sense, the research uses recent advances in network theory to bridge the gap between the engineering design and organization science and innovation management. Dynamics of modularity will be used, as a proxy for structural changes in each of these layers and network-embedded game-theoretic methods will be applied to create analytical models that relate technology modularity to market modularity. Stylized models will also be created to explore necessary conditions for stimulating episodes of architecture-driven, self-reinforcing distributed innovation. The theoretical thrust is complemented by an empirical study of the rapid transformation of the commercial wireless industry via absorbing CMOS technology, and the role of product architecture and changes in system modularity at each stage of this transformation for the ten-year period that led to the commercialization of smartphones. The educational activities include designing short, interactive workshops on complex networked systems for high school students, and collaborating with a science museum in New York City to integrate some of the results of the research part of this grant on multi-level networks into their visual, interactive infrastructure for K-12 students. At the college level, tasks are aimed at integrating recent developments in complex network methods and multi-agent systems in engineering design at undergraduate and graduate levels.

Related Faculty: Babak Heydari

Related Departments:Mechanical & Industrial Engineering