Transdisciplinary engineering (TE) is gaining attention in academic literature and comes with the underlying assumption of being the next evolutionary step for incorporating engineering solutions in practice. We seek to answer the question of when TE is appropriate and what the conditions are for efficient applications of TE in practice. A framework for analysis is constructed integrating TE with theory of communication and strategic paradox. The framework is used as a lens in a single explorative case of an multi-university research project. The projectbrings together researchers from a diverse range of disciplines, working together to create a novel device that could have a transformative impact on specific cancer healthcare. Data is collected using structured interviews with project researchers. The main finding from the case study is that TE does not appear to be employed at all levels of abstraction. In this case TE is found to be employed at the strategic level, while tactical and operational levels adopt traditional approaches to working. Effective TE relies heavily on the relationship between specialisation and generalisation. We identify two main roles when it comes to people; specialists and generalists. Specialists (e.g. healthcare, pharmaceuticals & biotechnology) must be able to understand the general picture while the Generalists (e.g. business; operations) must be aware of the requirements and limitations of Specialists. Generalisations for practice and further research are discussed. The main contribution of the work is a framework for analysis of TE.
Citation: Kharlamov, A.A., G. Parry, and L.B. Newnes, When and where is transdisciplinary engineering applied in projects? A case study, in The Transdisciplinary Engineering Conference 2019. 2019: Tokyo, Japan.