FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Engenharia Mecânica

Unidade de I&D

Centro Interdisciplinar emTecnologias da Produção e Energia [MECH-Norte-Braga-252] visitada em 04/04/2008

Classificação: Good

Reapreciação

Comentários do Painel de reapreciação

Basis of Re-evaluation

FCT appointed three individuals to perform a re-evaluation of the Unit following a formal request to do so, in which it was claimed that the evaluators’ report indicated that they did not fully understand the recent reorganisation of the Unit. It was also suggested that the evaluation did not fully take into account the data provided during the panel visit. Had they done so, the appellant claims that the rating should have been Very Good. The appellant also provided selected comments from the evaluations of other research units in support of a claim that the criteria were inconsistently applied.

The FCT provided individual members of the re-evaluation team with the original submission made by the Unit for the period 2003 to 2007, the letter requesting the re-evaluation, and the scoring scheme that was used for the evaluation. Unlike the original evaluation, the re-evaluation was done using only these materials. It is noted that the original evaluation included a site visit and interviews. It is also observed that this re-evaluation is made about two years after the initial evaluation so that current perceptions may be different from those made then.

The re-evaluation team has endeavoured to assess the Unit as objectively as possible but notes that it did not have the same means to calibrate their assessment against the large number of Units that were assessed in the initial exercise.

General Observations

The Summary submission has data for 10 Groups, in 8 domains and reflecting the formal FCT numbering of the Groups.

It is noted that prior to 2006 the Unit was organised as 7 Groups:

  • Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Energy Conversion (2631)
  • Manufacturing Technologies (2629)
  • Design and Mechanics of Materials (2630)
  • Mechatronics and Automation (2686)
  • Human Engineering (3035)
  • Industrial Management and Systems (3040)
  • Systems Economic Analysis (3031)

It was observed that in 2007 (at or towards the end of the evaluation period) the unit was restructured to create a new research unit with four Groups. The exact mapping is not provided in the original submission. However, the re-evaluation request states that a Centre for Mechanics and Materials Technologies (C2MT) was formed and that 4 Groups remained in the new CITEPE. These are:

  • Human Engineering (HE - 3037)
  • Industrial Management and Systems (IMS - 3040)
  • Systems Economic Analysis (SEA - 3031)
  • Distributed and Virtual Manufacturing Systems (DVMSE - 3050)

The re-evaluation is based upon the Groups and evidence provided in the formal submissions. Of course, the new grouping is relevant to the future research programme.

The objective of the Unit is to conduct research on “production technology and management and energy systems”. As written, this is ambiguous and it would appear that the “energy systems” is a bit of an after thought.

Over the evaluation period the number of FTE researchers has grown from 31 to 37 with an average of 33.75. However, only 19 PhD-level researchers (18 plus the Unit Co-coordinator) are named in the Unit Summary document.

The Unit has received funding of over 2M€.

In the section on future research it is stated that “production and energy are at the core of any technologically advanced society”. However, that list appears quite high level, with foci on economics and social implications of strategic decisions, and human, organizational and management aspects of the production process. There is nothing explicit on energy and its national relevance.

Under future networking reference is made to the Portugal-MIT collaboration in Design and Advanced Manufacturing. It is not clear which areas or Groups will be active in this collaboration. The other elements of the future networking section are too high level to comment on.

There is little to indicate that the Unit is more than the sum of its parts. This may have been recognised in the decision to restructure. However, the benefits of greater coherence and interaction are not apparent in the future plans of the Unit. The Unit appears to still lack a clear research strategy.

There are some inconsistencies in the presentation of data between the Groups and, as noted earlier, between the Unit and the sum of its constituent Groups.

Productivity: Fair

63 peer-reviewed international journal publications are claimed, as are numerous other contributions to the international knowledge base. Also two international recognitions are cited for researchers (from the Design and Mechanics of Materials Group).

Relevance: Very Good

Even if the descriptions of the ongoing and planned research activities are sometimes rather vague (e.g. in ‘renewable resources’), it is still clear that most of the research is of high relevance to any industrial society and to the Portuguese society in particular.

Feasibility: Good

The Unit is interacting with industry and working at getting Framework 7 funds. The involvement in international networks has helped to improve the feasibility of the research goals.

Training: Good

According to the general indicator table in the Unit Summary document, over the evaluation period, 27 Masters and 31 PhD theses have been completed in the unit. It is noted that, measured in terms of graduating research students, the productivity in the first two years of the evaluation period is higher than in the second two.

The volume of students trained through Masters and PhD programs is an area for improvement.

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The unit seems to be in the process of alignment with the MIT/Portugal Program along the two focus areas of Manufacturing and Energy (with emphasis on energy use, planning, strategies and scenarios, but not much technology research and development, apart from ocean wave energy). However, the strategy of the "Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Energy Conversion" group does not seem to be following that pattern
The topics are of interest but likely of limited impact to Portuguese small and medium size industries. No future strategy and funding sources are described.
Declaring a general interest in renewable energy sources is too vague. The group should narrow down the topics in which they can provide expertise for the specific Portuguese needs.
Is the group familiar with the MIT/Portugal Program? Is there an attempt to align the group activity with the Energy Focus Areas?
Might there be too many research lines for the number of PhDs in the Group? Would they be able to restrict their activity to 2 or 3 lines of action?
Are there clear industrial targets for their activities (e.g., biomechanics, used oil energy recovery, room ventilation)?
Is there any specific topic in the renewable energy sector that the group is considering actively participating in?
The research themes of this unit are of relevance for any industrial society. The basic organization into four research groups with specific themes is sound. The quality of accomplishments to date varies from group to group. Motivation as well as articulation of future research was not sufficiently specific. The presentations were focused on the number of publications and investigator productivity rather than on the importance and uniqueness of the ideas that were explored in the past and that constitute proposed future work. The students of this unit appear well motivated, capable and eager to contribute to the unit’s mission.
There were indications of interactions and paths for interactions between three of the four groups. However, there was virtually no past or planned interaction between the virtual manufacturing group and any of the other three groups in the unit.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Design and Mechanics of Materials [RG-X-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-2630]
Distributed and Virtual Manufacturing Systems and Enterprises [RG-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-3050]
This group seems to be making headway towards initiating research activities. Not much information on teaching, research results, industrial collaborations or publications is available to date. This seems to be a single person effort, which could benefit from providing a clear articulation of the critical research questions to be addressed. The direction of the research seems uncertain
Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Energy Conversion [RG-X-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-2631]
Human Engineering [RG-X-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-3035]
Human Engineering [RG-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-3037]
The group is well focused and performing interesting and industrially relevant research towards improving safety and ergonomics. The work in sound protection appears focused and productive. Some Social Science should be added to complete the triangle “Engineering/Economy/Sociology”. The group’s publication and training records varied in the past, but appear to have gained momentum. Recent results were published in some of the best journals in the field.
Industrial Management and Systems [RG-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-3040]
This group should improve their training record of PhDs. They are currently working on several low-budget projects. They are interacting with industry, and are working at getting Framework 7 funds. They appear to understand the appropriate approach to apply for such funds.
Industrial Management and Systems [RG-X-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-3042]
Manufacturing Technologies [RG-X-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-2629]
Mechatronics and Automation [RG-X-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-2686]
Systems Economic Analysis [RG-MECH-Norte-Braga-252-3031]
This group seems to be aligning with the MIT/Portugal Program (MPP) orientation. Their energy related activities fall within the Sustainable Energy Systems Focus Area of MPP. This may be a strategically smart decision, since the Portuguese Government is defining (at least in the near term) what should be done and publicly funded over the next few years. However, there may already be too many groups in Portugal working on energy planning and regulatory issues. Declaring a general interest in renewable energy sources is too vague; the group should further narrow down the topics in which they can provide expertise for specific Portuguese needs.
Putting energy aside, the group is performing interesting work in developing economic models to drive decision-making processes for industry. This fits in well with the direction and needs of today’s industry. This group seems to be the strongest of the unit.