Professor Jennifer Whyte holds the Royal Academy of Engineering and Laing O’Rourke Chair in Systems Integration. Professor Whyte’s team is interdisciplinary in nature and addresses fundamental questions such as how to coordinate across engineering disciplines to achieve integrated systems. The focus is on developing new technologies and methods that will form the basis for a new generation of tools and techniques.
What is the goal?
The goal of the Chair is to move forward systems integration with a focus on infrastructure applications. Objectives include:
1. Consolidate disparate but related systems techniques proliferating in different engineering disciplines into a form that moves forward systems integration management with a focus on infrastructure applications;
2. Improve integration of system requirements and performance criteria, systems assessments, change control, work control and documentation control in a heavily digitised, geographically dispersed working environment;
3. Develop assisting technologies and processes for the commissioning, acceptance and handover of large complex projects;
4. Outreach of modern systems engineering principles to the engineering profession.
What have we done to date and what we are working on?
To achieve the substantial work carried out towards the Chair objectives is as follows:
1. Moving forward systems integration management in infrastructure
To consolidate disparate but related systems techniques, work on objective 1 is focused on:
a) systems integration management;
b) systems engineering toolkit and processes;
c) transforming construction;
d) projects as interventions in infrastructure systems of systems.
View the Systems Engineering toolkit for Infrastructure version 1.0. See also our introductory video https://wwwf.imperial.ac.uk/blog/csei/
See also our work on the Transforming Construction Network Plus, including the webinar on ‘Rethinking the business model for offsite construction’, and our paper on Projects as Interventions in Infrastructure Systems of Systems.
2. Systems Engineering Processes in a Heavily Digitized Distributed Environment
Much of the work of the research team addresses the use of digital approaches for systems engineering. This work is focused on:
a) linked data, data-science and computer vision;
c) digital delivery strategy.
See for example the award winning paper on ‘How Digital Information Transforms Project Delivery Models’ (PMJ 2020 Paper of the Year).
3. Commissioning and Acceptance on Large Complex Projects
Work on assisting technology to optimise the commissioning and acceptance of large complex projects is being undertaken through the Alan Turing Institute research on design change in the digital twin as part of the Grand Challenge on ‘Data-Driven Design under Uncertainty’. See for example the award winning paper on ‘Transition and Temporalities: Spanning Temporal Boundaries as Projects End and Operations Begin’.
4. Mainstreaming Systems Engineering and Outreach
Our work has focused on systems engineering in delivery of interventions into existing infrastructure. Professor Whyte has co-authored and contributed to shaping recent policy thinking through industry reports including recent reports on Flourishing Systems and Digital Twin We have been working on the outreach of modern systems engineering principles to the engineering profession, through bodies such as the Royal Academy of Engineering and INCOSE. Professor Whyte sat on the post-Grenfell MHCLG Industry Safety Strategy Group in 2018/19 (chaired by Judith Hackitt, author of the Hackitt Review ‘Building a Safer Future’);
Research Impact and Benefits to Society
High-quality infrastructure provides societal benefits as it improves quality of life, and hence the delivery and operation of infrastructure is important. As systems integration is a growing challenge in infrastructure projects as they become more complex and cyber physical in nature, this research has clear benefits, including:
- Professor Whyte’s work has had an impact on policy through her membership of the Construction Leadership Council and the Transforming Construction Programme (particularly the Network Plus);
- Her close work with Laing O’Rourke is ensuring research impact and benefits to society. through research-informed Continuing Professional Development on Systems Engineering Leadership, and through input into the Knowledge Transfer Network ‘Complex Systems Engineering Framework’ and co-curation of the World Economic Forum on their Engineering and Construction transformation map;
- Professor Whyte has published award winning articles in Project Management Journal, Construction Management and Economics, Research Policy, and Organization Studies.
- Professor Whyte’s invited Oral evidence to Lord’s Select Committee Inquiry on Offsite Manufacturing for Construction, 24 April 2018, House of Commons, London, UK.
- Further impact on policy has been achieved through Professor Whyte’s membership of the UK’s Digital Framework Task Group representing UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC);
- Professor Whyte speaks about her research on systems integration at many international and national conferences, for example she spoke about the impact of digital technology on project management and project delivery at the APM Project Management Conference;
- The Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation also promotes systems engineering principles inside and outside college, through its showcase events, small call and teaching, as well as outreach.
Selected related projects
Systems integration in digitally enabled modular building - Capacity building in the Nottingham-Derby-Sheffield Region
The goal is to gain impact from our research to benefit local economies in the region bounded by Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield by improving capabilities for the systems integration in digitally enabled modular building through the construction supply base. More information about the project can be found here.
Analysing systems interdependencies using a digital twin
The main aim of the project was to articulate the extent to which a digital twin can be used to generate new insight on systems relationships and interdependencies. You can find more information here. Final report available here.
Increase construction productivity using 3D computer vision & BIM to automate project progress
Building on previous Centre research, this project aims to develop a prototype to process visual and sensed data for construction progress monitoring in a fully automated fashion through BIM and computer vision methods. You can find more information here.
Building resilient infrastructure through Metro Development
This includes work with IIT Madras and Cambridge University funded by the EPSRC through the Imperial College Community Building GCRF Call. You can find more information here.
How to engage with us?
If you are interested in this project please:
- Explore the freely available resources on this page;
- Join our mailing list for updates on events and outputs of this project and all our other research; or
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org, putting “System Integration Research” in the subject line.