MIT Strategic Engineering
Designing Systems for an Uncertain Future
Engineering is not just about designing systems and products so they work when you first take them "out of the box" and turn them on. That's when the real game starts. Systems that take only a few months or years to design and implement often operate for many decades, some of them will operate for centuries. It is therefore important to consider the whole lifecycle, even if it is very uncertain.
So, here are some of the questions we - and our research sponsors - are asking:
- Is the system reliable and does it perform robustly over a range of future operating conditions? What is its useful lifetime?
- How easy is it to upgrade or change the system by adding new functions, different features, infusing new technologies or scaling it up in size?
- How do man-made systems like roads and rail lines, electrical power grids, airline networks etc... evolve over time and are there predictable patterns to such evolution?
- Is it possible to develop new versions or variants from a manufactured product for new markets? How expensive or profitable is that ?
- How does the underlying architecture of a system, its complexity and degree of modularity or decentralization impact its lifecycle properties such as its flexibility to evolve?
- When does a system become obsolete or too complex and when it is time to retire it and replace it with a new system? How do you optimally introduce a new system, while continuing to operate the old one?
- What is the future of our technological human civilization on Earth? What does it take to explore space in a sustained way? What are the real requirements for long term space exploration campaigns, and eventually for building and operating planetary colonies?
We answer some of these questions in rigorous and quantiative ways, developing new integrated approaches based on the principles of systems architecture and systems engineering, design theory, complexity science, management of technology, project management, as well as strategy and economics.
We call our integrated approach Strategic Engineering.
Strategic Engineering is the process of architecting and designing complex systems and products in a way that deliberately accounts for future uncertainty and context in order to maximize their lifecycle value.
This website contains a summary of our research and educational program as well as links to specific research projects, publications, current and former students, research staff, sponsors, downloadable materials such as videos, models and data as well as links to collaborating groups at MIT and elsewhere.