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Scottish Local Group

What is Systems Engineering?

Systems Engineering is “the art and science of creating complex systems”. It covers the technical and management disciplines for conceiving, developing, deploying, operating, supporting and disposing of complex and novel systems and products. It is key to the effective integration of disciplines during development, and to the safe and robust operation of systems in real environments. It is becoming essential in an increasingly wide range of economic activity, as complexity increases and consumers and the public become less tolerant of risk (at least of risk imposed on them by others).

Systems Engineers are also interested in the nature and consequences of interactions within and between complex systems. This takes the discipline far beyond engineering, into management and government. Why and how does a series of small and apparently unconnected changes and decisions lead to sudden catastrophic results? Can systems engineering and systems science help us to understand recent problems with the Scottish Exam board and the railways? Can they help governments make better decisions, and communicate a better understanding of risks and consequences of decisions to the public?

Why does Systems Engineering matter to Scotland?

The Scottish economy needs the techniques of systems engineering to increase its success ratio and added value when developing and industrialising novel products and systems. Even superficially simple product developments increasingly need a systems approach, as embedded software becomes a critical factor in their success.

Systems Engineering is key to Scotland’s ability to grow indigenous systems integrators and reduce its dependence on inward investment. Benchmarking the Scottish economy against for example Finland, the latter has a similar population, but higher GDP per capita, and more than double the annual growth rate. This is thanks largely to the success of several home-grown world class industrial companies. Finland’s telecoms giant, Nokia, is a heavy user of systems engineering in both its consumer product and its systems integration businesses.

INCOSE and Scotland

There are over 300 members of INCOSE in the UK but only 8 in Scotland. Although Systems Engineering is relevant to all industrial sectors and to government, INCOSE membership is dominated by the traditional users of heavyweight systems engineering methods in the defence and aerospace sectors. INCOSE wants to increase its membership in Scotland, and its member base outside the traditional defence and aerospace sectors. To this end it is planning to hold a series of meetings in Scotland, to start a 2-way exchange:

  • to show engineers, managers, and decision makers in Scottish industry and government what INCOSE, and systems engineering in general, can offer;
  • and to show the rest of INCOSE the tremendous system-related innovation developing in Scottish industry and academia.

Who should attend?

  • Government decision makers who need a better understanding of why small decisions can have big and unexpected consequences, and of what has to be done to ensure that systems and organisations meet stakeholder expectations and work robustly and safely
  • Industry leaders and managers who want to increase their organisation’s customer focus, improve their development process, and satisfy legislative and competitive demands for robust, high integrity, high added value systems and products
  • Individual engineers who want to be able to “think systems”, see the wider context of their work, and develop products and systems which will be competitive in the global marketplace
  • Academics with an interest in systems engineering, systems science and product development.