Sunday, March 9, 2008

SEAri teams up with Draper Lab for more effective research - SDM Pulse, Spring 2008

Director Donna Rhodes
MIT’s Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative (SEAri) seeks to advance the theories, methods, and effective practice of systems engineering through collaborative research. According to SEAri Director Donna Rhodes, “the most successful collaborations come from effective research engagement by the involved parties for mutual benefit.”

SEAri pairs the research rigor and new methodologies of academia with the real-world perspectives of industry leaders to ensure that research has the maximum impact.

“Our experience is that the most effective partnerships are purposefully architected to leverage the strengths of the collaborating organizations, and a great example is our ongoing project with Draper Laboratory,” Rhodes said, referring to work on a new method for exploring design tradespaces.

“This collaboration is a unique opportunity to take a research methodology that has been developed primarily in an academic setting and validate it in the industrial setting,” said MIT research scientist Adam Ross, technical leader for the project. While MIT tests and refines the method for use in industry practice, the Draper team gains knowledge and a new approach to add to its existing portfolio of concept development methods.
Adam Ross

A key factor in this collaboration, Rhodes said, is “connecting like-minded people in both organizations, where our methodology development research is linked to a problem the sponsor views as strategically important.”

In this case, the two teams are geographically close to one another, which has made it easy for members to meet frequently. There is a weekly research team meeting for technical collaboration and a monthly meeting of the principal investigators to review technical and programmatic progress. Bimonthly meetings of the academic and sponsoring research directors ensure continued strategic alignment and collaboration effectiveness. Another important factor has been the coupling of the university research project sponsored by Draper with an internal company research and development project, creating a synergy that adds to the impact that either project would have if performed alone. While the geographic proximity of MIT and Draper offers an advantage, the approach can be applied by any team.

“Academic research can only have true impact if it is embraced by the practitioner community, and this project is helping us understand how to create more effective partnerships for this purpose,” Rhodes said. For more information about SEAri, visit or contact the leadership team at

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