A heterogeneous research partnership (HRP) is one in which industry, academia and government collaborate to conduct research, typically of national importance. Whilst most HRPs complete their planned duration and deliver their agreed tasks, it is not uncommon for participants to be left feeling somewhat dissatisfied, suggesting that the requirements which are being met are incomplete. There is an opportunity to improve the success of HRPs by establishing principles and practices for the application of systems engineering in their development.
The thesis reviews literature drawn from a broad body of work covering three main areas: the context of HRPs themselves, systems engineering and related disciplines, and research methodology. The research adopts an interpretive approach, initially applying Soft Systems Methodology in a pilot case study and subsequently conducting a qualitative analysis of sixteen HRP case studies in order to develop and refine generic models which are relevant to HRPs. Drawing from the commentary of interviewees, published sources and other evidence, major themes across the case studies are integrated in order to develop ten principles and ten practices for the application of systems engineering to HRPs.
The importance of consistency between the research context, systems approach and research methodology is emphasised, and the thesis highlights a significant philosophical challenge facing system of systems research as the discipline seeks to use a range of hard and soft systems approaches which are fundamentally rooted in different paradigms.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.