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NEURAL COMPUTING PROGRAMME
AU No 38b


SUMMARY

 

The Neural Computing Technology Transfer Programme (NCTTP) was approved in February 1992 and began in 1993.  The programme had a total budget of 5.75m.

The actual DTI spend profile for the programme was as follows:

'000
92/93 93/94 94/95 95/96 96/97 97/98 TOTAL
385 1,856 1,548 1,230 245 78 5,342

The programme budget was split between two sets of activities:

  • an awareness campaign which was fully funded by DTI and managed by Touche Ross Management Consultants
  • a demonstrator programme involving seven clubs which was managed and delivered by contracted consortia and which involved DTI support for 50% of each club's activities with the balance coming from members' contributions

The evaluation of the programme was carried out by Segal Quince Wicksteed on behalf of the Assessment Unit and led to the following conclusions and recommendations.

Conclusions:

 

  1. the overall rationale for the programme was broadly correct at the start of the programme, although the specific objectives were not particularly meaningful.
  2. the awareness programme was well thought through and provided a range of materials of varying degrees of complexity suitable for different audiences.  These provide a useful legacy from the programme as well as a database of companies which had taken part in the campaign.
  3. evaluations undertaken by Touche Ross indicated a high level of satisfaction among companies with the events organised during the programme.  After 18 months 3,500 companies who had participated in awareness events could name an application area within their company where neural networks could be applied and 1,000 had taken some action to introduce applications (defined to include internal discussions, reading of specialist publications etc).
  4. data was not available on the extent to which the programme itself had increased awareness nor on whether companies expressing an intention to introduce neural computing had actually done so.
  5. the Club programme provided benefits to companies including training and education, case studies and demonstration, development of company capabilities and the development of relevant applications.  A large proportion of those interviewed intended to pursue further exploratory and development work.
  6. the specific outcomes of the club programmes were variable both between and within clubs.  The programme did provide an important benefit in allowing companies to test neural networks in a low cost manner, but did not, in general, leave a legacy of fora which are likely to continue in their present form without subsidy.
  7. few companies defined projects for the club programmes which were more than of peripheral importance to them in the short to medium term.  Instead, the motivation was more to assess whether NN was a promising technology by testing its effectiveness in relation to specific problems.  There were very few cases of adoption and commercialisation of club outputs and this reflects companies' motivations in joining the clubs.
  8. additionality was generally high particularly in terms of the formation of clubs which would not have occurred without subsidies.

Recommendations:

 

  1. many companies need a certain amount of independent advice at the start of a club programme to enable them to take full advantage of club type programmes.
  2. the focus of future programmes should be to provide an understanding of the types of problems for which neural computing is the most appropriate solution and those for which other technologies might be better suited.  There is a need to consider carefully the balance between the benefits of focusing on a particular technology and the dangers of excluding adjacent technologies.
  3. the DTI should try to ensure that the variation in outcomes between clubs is reduced by providing guidelines, briefing new club members and more assertive monitoring of steering committees.
  4. at the end of programmes, the DTI or other relevant agency should make contact with participating firms to ascertain progress and requirements for further assistance.
  5. careful consideration needs to be given to the specification of objectives in the ROAME statement.  These need to be meaningful in terms of the overall aims of the programme and also testable.  In particular, where awareness raising is an aim there needs to be bench marking of the situation before the programme is introduced.

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