Professor Alex Duffy

Head Of Department

Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management

Personal statement

I have over 28 years research experience, 24 years in project management, with breadth and depth of expertise and knowledge in design (product and systems), product development and supporting tools/techniques.  To instil good design research practice I formulated a design research approach and developed an analysis tool to be used in companies in order to identify key target areas for performance improvement, strategic development and collaboration.

I have secured publication of 209 articles of which 32 are journal and 107 refereed conference papers.  The focus of the latter in order to secure the work at the earliest possible date, particularly within the rapidly changing research field of computational design.  I have defined the first overall model of engineering design re-use, pioneering design performance, leading advances in design co-ordination, and created a unique model of learning in design. My research vision in 1984 of developing a fully integrated computing design environment formed the basis of the establishment of a Faculty wide Computer Aided Design Centre, of which I later became a director, and my current vision of Enabling Total Engineering defines the research vision for the department of Design Manufacture and Engineering Management.

Since becoming an academic, in 1986, I have led in securing over £38.9M of project funding of which over £4.8M directly supports my own research activities, I am currently in the negotiation stage of a further EC project worth £1.5M of which my own funding is for £315K, and I am about to sign an MoU with BAE Systems for £1M. Details of my funding activities can be seen in Appendix C.

I championed and co-ordinated the largest FP5 EU technology platform project (VRS), in terms of combined money and partners, involving 38 research groups, from 13 different European countries, with 12 in industry, 12 other businesses, 7 research establishments and 7 in the higher education sector.  I was one of five topic leaders on VIRTUE, a 17M€ EU project with 22 European partners working on integrated Computational Fluid Dynamics for Ship Design, one of four topic leaders on NECTISE (Network Enabled Capability Through Innovative Systems Engineering) an £8.4M joint EPSRC and BAE Systems project involving 10 UK university partners, and was a partner in the Design, Operation, and Regulation for Ship Safety (SAFEDOR) 20M€ EU project with 53 European partners. The resulting Virtual Integration Platform (VIP) platform is a realisation of my early research vision of an Integrated Design Environment, IDE, (see pages B3 and B7).  The platform addresses the integration and management of distributed life-phase support systems covering conception, design, production and operations, as well as multi-disciplinary and distributed working.

I am the editor of one and on the editorial board of 3 international journals and have been on 84 advisory boards, organised 11 international workshops, examined 24 Ph.Ds and successfully supervised 14 Ph.D graduates.  Industry have benefited with savings in process execution time of 64% and 45% resource cost reduction [10, 8, 73, 98][1], the identification of key target areas for maximising performance improvement [81] and with improvements of modularity of 19-26%.  A system resulting from the research is currently in industrial use and developments are ongoing to roll it out to a wider European community (EuroVIP).

[1] References found in list of publications, Appendix D.


ValueD : a model of cognitive value determination in design
Reber M, Duffy A H B, Hay L, Whitfield R I
Journal of Engineering Design (2021)
A novel user-based gesture vocabulary for conceptual design
Vuletic Tijana, Duffy Alex, McTeague Chris, Hay Laura, Brisco Ross, Campbell Gerard, Grealy Madeleine
International Journal of Human Computer Studies Vol 150 (2021)
A network tool to analyse and improve robustness of system architectures
Paparistodimou Giota, Duffy Alex, Whitfield Robert Ian, Knight Philip, Robb Malcolm
Design Science Vol 6 (2020)
A network science-based assessment methodology for robust modular system architectures during early conceptual design
Paparistodimou Giota, Duffy Alex, Whitfield Robert Ian, Knight Philip, Robb Malcolm
Journal of Engineering Design Vol 31, pp. 179-218 (2020)
Functional activity and connectivity during creative ideation in product design engineers
Campbell Gerard, Duffy Alex, Hay Laura, Gilbert Sam, McTeague Chris, Coyle Damien, Grealy Madeleine
6th Meeting of the Society for the Neuroscience of Creativity (2020)
The neural correlates of ideation in product design engineering practitioners
Hay L, Duffy A H B, Gilbert S J, Lyall L, Campbell G, Coyle D, Grealy M A
Design Science Vol 5 (2019)

More publications


My teaching is primarily in the areas of design management, computational techniques, and product development to both postgraduate and undergraduate students.  My loading varies between 170 – 240 hours per annum.  I have successfully supervised 143 postgraduate and undergraduate individual projects (55 M.Sc, 43 M.Eng research projects and 45 B.Eng/MEng design projects) with 100% pass rate (see Appendix F).  I have introduced five new courses and one currently being developed, five at Postgraduate (Integrated Product Development, Engineering Design, Digital Creativity, Operations Management in Engineering, and Systems Engineering the latter currently being introduced) and one undergraduate in Design Computing.

My approach is to stimulate an environment of active learning through close interaction with the students.  I am actively involved in developing on-line material and was a co-investigator on a £1.1M NSF/JISC joint initiative between Stanford (USA) and Strathclyde (UK) on the use of digital libraries in the classroom to support collaborative design team working.  The project provided material to further my research in developing fundamental insights in to learning in design and has formed the basis for a draft “radical” proposal for distributed design education currently being discussed with the Scottish Funding Council.

Research interests

Latest initiatives

Currently in the final stages of negotiating a €1.8M 19 partner (8 associations, 3 large enterprises, 6 SMEs, and 2 Universities) EC FP7 project on Virtual Integrated Partnering (VIP) for SME service, technology and information providers in the European maritime sector. Contract should be finalised by the end of 2010 with a project start date of February 2011. The aim of the EuroVIP project is to increase the competitive position of European maritime SMEs through the development of partnerships between SMEs, larger organisations, and academia that facilitate the effective exploitation and synthesis of service, technology and information advances.

Signed a University Technology Partnership Memorandum of Understanding with BAE Systems Surface Ships for forming, with 6 universities, a federated “Centre of Excellence”. Strathclyde would be one of two leading institutions with an impetus and main focus upon “Total Engineering” (DMEM’s research/Leonardo Centre research focus) but it is not restricted to such. Funding is confidential at the moment but will cover significant activities for 5 years.

Co-investigator in an EPSRC recently approved Engineering Doctorate Centre in Advanced Forming and Manufacture valued at £3.1M for 32 Engineering Doctorate students. The project is due to start October 2011. Industrial partners include Rolls-Royce, The Boeing Company, Mettis Aerospace, Timet, Aubert & Duval, GKN, Renishaw, Microsoft, Bodycote, EKES, Mitutoyo, and Fanuc Automation.

Latest grants

During 2004 I secured formal recognition from BAE Systems as an Academic Competent Partner Systems Design Decision Support. During this period I competed against 60 other academics from any discipline throughout the UK in an EPSRC/BAE Systems Novel Systems Engineering initiative to be selected to lead one of four key topic areas (decision support) in a 5½ year research programme. A full proposal was submitted to EPSRC in January 2005 with approval for a project that started in October 2005. The project was termed Networked Capability Through Innovative Systems Engineering, NECTISE, involving 11 UK Universities and was awarded a grant of £8.4M, of which I was awarded £724K. The project was prematurely terminated in 2009 due to organisational and strategic changes under financial pressures.

Secured, with partners from the universities of Bath, Queen's Belfast, Leicester and Loughborough (co-ordinator), an EPSRC Doctorate Training Centre in Systems Engineering from October 2006 to 2013. The centre is in collaboration with industrial partners such as Babcock Engineering Services, BAE Systems, Bombardier Aerospace, DePuy International, Ford, QinetiQ, Thales and Westland. EPSRC grant is £3.5M with a planned additional funding of £1.3M from industry for a 4-year initiation programme (7 years overall).

One of five Work Package leaders in the €17M project VIRTUE: The Virtual Tank Utility in Europe project with 22 partners, The project aimed to create four virtual basins, that could be combined, to provide a comprehensive testing and simulation of new ship design.

Co-investigator on an NSF/JISC joint initiative on the use of digital libraries in the classroom to support collaborative design team working, involving Stanford (USA) and Strathclyde (UK), £1.1M over 5 years (Strathclyde grant value of £512K).  March 2003 – February 2008.



In addition to those involved in EU and UK projects:

  • Professor Yu-Xin Wang, Zhejiang University, China.
  • Advisory Professor at Tongji University, Shanghai, China, May 2005 – April 2008.
  • Professor M M Andreasen, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark.
  • Professor Y Reich, Tel Aviv University, Israel.
  • Dr E Szczerbicki, University of Newcastle, Australia.
  • Member and management board member of a European supported network of industrial and academic partners working in “Integration in Manufacturing and Beyond” (1992-2000)
  • Member of UK Network of Experts in Knowledge Based Systems involving a number of academic and industrial collaborators (1997-2000).

Professional activities

9th International Conference on Design Computing and Cognition 2020
Cognitive Design Science SIG - The Design Society (External organisation)
Curiosity Live
22nd International Conference on Engineering Design
Design Computing Cognition DCC18
Design Computing Cognition DCC18

More professional activities


Doctoral Training Partnership 2020-2021 University of Strathclyde | Lawrie, Emma
Hay, Laura (Principal Investigator) Duffy, Alex (Co-investigator) Lawrie, Emma (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2020 - 01-Jan-2024
Industrial Case Account - University of Strathclyde 2019 | Collum, Jessica
Duffy, Alex (Principal Investigator) Whitfield, Ian (Principal Investigator) MacBryde, Jillian (Co-investigator) Collum, Jessica (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 01-Jan-2023
Industrial Case Account - University of Strathclyde 2019 / S190404-109
Duffy, Alex (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2024
Industrial CASE Account - University of Strathclyde 2018 | Odukoya, Kofoworola
Duffy, Alex (Principal Investigator) Whitfield, Ian (Co-investigator) Odukoya, Adebowale (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 01-Jan-2023
Doctoral Training Partnership (DTA - University of Strathclyde) | Campbell, Gerard
Duffy, Alex (Principal Investigator) Grealy, Madeleine (Co-investigator) Hay, Laura (Co-investigator) Campbell, Gerard (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2016 - 01-Jan-2021
Feasibility of cognitive based Computer Aided Engineering Design (CAED)
Duffy, Alex (Principal Investigator) Grealy, Madeleine (Co-investigator) Hay, Laura (Researcher) Pidgeon, Laura (Researcher)
"Currently, both commercial and state-of-the-art Computer Aided Engineering Design (CAED) systems are limited in how intuitive and conducive they are to the engineering design process. They are continually advancing but in an incremental fashion and doing so by adapting to established design processes. This research aims to look at engineering design from a radically different perspective. The aim is to investigate the feasibility of brain controlled CAED through identifying critical areas of the brain that are active during ideation in engineering design, and evaluating the feasibility of technology development, and its use, in controlling CAED systems using a direct Brain-Controlled Interface (BCI); surpassing the traditional CAED approach of mouse and keyboard interaction. Achieving this requires knowledge of the patterns of neural activation within the brain during creative engineering design, capabilities for development of CAED systems to reflect a new way of working, and incorporating a direct interaction between the human brain and CAED system. It should be noted that creativity is a difficult term to define, having different implications in a variety of different fields. In this research project, creativity is defined in the context of engineering design and the creative tasks undertaken in the processes within design, in particular ideation.

In order to map the activity of the brain during cognitive design tasks both cognitive and cognitive neuroscience scientists and engineering design academics need to be involved in experiment design, implementation and analysis, and the subsequent exploration of the feasibility of the practical implementation of the findings. We first must define the cognitive design processes to be examined and then create appropriate experimental tasks in which the defined cognitive design processes are clearly demonstrated by experienced designers. The patterns of brain activation will be recorded when practising designers perform the defined tasks in order to identify the responding areas of the brain. Understanding and assessing the feasibility of cognitive controlled CAED will provide is with the foundation to test the use of Brain Controlled Interface (BCI) controlled CAED.

By performing this inter-disciplinary research a new field will be created that incorporates cognitive science, engineering design, neuroscience and BCI in order to change the way ideation design is both perceived and performed, and in the process will open up new avenues for future research. The feasibility of this could initiate studies in a multitude of combined engineering design, CAED and BCI studies as well as input to other BCI developments in general.

CAED applications could become accessible to the physically impaired, help people enter the work force, reducing care costs, and enhancing self-worth and perhaps also allowing the ageing population to work later in life. The ways in which brain control interfaces could be used may also impact on the way that the general public considers interacting with technology. An understanding of the areas of the brain activated during specific CAED tasks will contribute to brain mapping currently being built by research programmes worldwide. Designers interested in new ways of designing will be able to gain knowledge of BCI capabilities for CAED using outputs on the potential role of BCI in CAED. Designers and researchers will learn about the brain processes involved in design tasks and the capabilities and limitations of using neuroscience to enhance design activities. The underlining idea of the research is that in the future anyone could be a designer creating ideas within a CAD system, giving a new dimension to crowdsourcing and enabling people without specific design skills to embody their thoughts."
01-Jan-2015 - 31-Jan-2020

More projects


Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management
James Weir Building

Location Map

View University of Strathclyde in a larger map