STRIDE Helps Organizations Make Critical R&D Investment Decisions

Major technology advances such as the development of hypersonic vehicles – and less dramatic enhancements to existing systems – require overcoming a multitude of complex and costly challenges, many of them interconnected. That requires making strategic decisions on where limited research and development resources should be invested to provide maximum progress.

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are developing a set of tools and methodologies that could help companies, federal agencies, and other organizations make those decisions by creating a roadmap of the science and technology (S&T) investments needed to realize a particular capability. Known as Science and Technology Research and Investment for Digital Engineering (STRIDE), the technique helps its users consider the costs and benefits across an entire system lifecycle. 

GTRI researchers are helping organizations prioritize their R&D investments.“STRIDE is really a portfolio management tool,” said Clement Smartt, a GTRI principal research scientist who leads the team developing it. “It helps an organization understand what projects in a given research portfolio they should focus on to meet operational needs given limitations of funding, time, and other considerations.”

Though STRIDE was originally developed to support decision making in the hypersonics community, its core methods and tools can be applied to any S&T portfolio targeted at enhancing performance of existing systems – or building entirely new ones. The output of STRIDE includes information on preferred S&T investment options and allows leadership to ask “what if” questions about potential alternatives.

“The goal is to make better decisions by doing trade space studies to get the answers before any metal is bent,” said Brent Peavy, a GTRI principal research engineer who is also part of the research team. “We are developing STRIDE to support the goal of making decisions based on modeling done with real data.”

The system’s output can include a prioritized set of investment opportunities along with data on the cost of each, the projected benefits, the timeline required to mature the program, and the tradeoffs that should be considered. For inputs, the tool leverages digital models, including those done for engineering, cost, sustainment, and operational analysis. It also can leverage test data for model creation or validation, and consider a project’s effects on an organization’s other investment opportunities.

STRIDE also considers issues that aren’t purely technical. For instance, research program managers must often determine what would happen if additional funding were added to a project, or if budgets were reduced. They also must often know the impacts of extending project deadlines – or shortening them to meet urgent goals. STRIDE also can help assess the impact of changing performance goals such as an air vehicle’s range, top speed, or payload.

“It makes recommendations based on multiple criteria, and a number of technical, cost, and schedule requirements,” said Smartt. “Slider bars associated with the relative importance of those parameters can be moved back and forth, and the recommendations will reflect those changes in priority.”

For decisions such as making improvements to established systems or platforms, STRIDE can consider how implementing those enhancements may affect existing capabilities. Examples might include making a lighter-weight part to improve range, or altering a design to reduce manufacturing costs. Any undesirable consequences of the new capability or enhancement would be factored into the recommendations.

“We can provide a more structured way to select S&T projects by considering their impact on systems of interest that will have to be integrated with the new capability, and then the long-term consequences and tradeoffs in terms of issues such as performance and schedule,” Smartt said.

The novel contribution of STRIDE, however, may be as a systems engineering model that holistically integrates data from all other models, he added. The digital engineering model uses advanced multi-attribute design and portfolio selection methodologies to arrive at recommendations for S&T options. 

For hypersonic vehicles, for instance, decisions on how to get the most return on investment could start with decomposing the technology development goals into subsystems and then trying to understand what may be holding back progress on each subsystem. For example, there could be roadblocks affecting such areas as guidance and navigation, propulsion, sensing, thermal protection, or other technologies. STRIDE can help make decisions about where to invest to make the most progress toward overcoming those roadblocks.

Many of the decision-making principles on which STRIDE is based grew from research in the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL) in Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering. ASDL is a leader in the area of systems design, architecting, and optimization, and is the largest lab of its kind in the world. Two GTRI researchers who are graduates of ASDL, Senior Research Engineers Annie Jones-Wyatt and William Engler, identified the potential of STRIDE for making technology decisions for advanced DoD systems, such as hypersonics, and have prototyped the methodology to prove its applicability.

Smartt and Peavy believe that investment priorities will increasingly be driven by structured approaches such as STRIDE and the data-driven principles behind them. They caution that the tool is itself a research project under development that will need refinement before it can be provided as a service or software product.

“We are figuring out how to do this as we go,” Peavy said. “We are trying to answer fundamental questions about how to use digital information to help make decisions.”

STRIDE could support digital engineering goals that are becoming increasingly important to organizations that make large investments in new technology, including the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). But one of the challenges of using it can be providing the quantity of data on which the system depends to make its recommendations.

“Right now, STRIDE is ahead of where most organizations are in digital engineering, but we believe this decision analytics approach will ultimately be the way that key program choices are made, including in the DoD space,” Smartt said. “GTRI is the right organization to help mature this methodology and help organizations adopt it to meet their needs for guiding S&T investments.”

 

Writer: John Toon (john.toon@gtri.gatech.edu).

 

GTRI Communications

Georgia Tech Research Institute

Atlanta, Georgia USA

 

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About GTRI: The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is the nonprofit, applied research division of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Founded in 1934 as the Engineering Experiment Station, GTRI has grown to more than 2,800 employees, supporting eight laboratories in over 20 locations around the country and performing more than $700 million of problem-solving research annually for government and industry. GTRI's renowned researchers combine science, engineering, economics, policy, and technical expertise to solve complex problems for the U.S. federal government, the state, and industry. For more information, please visit www.gtri.gatech.edu.

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