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How will network transformation change the future of work?

Cambridge Judge Business School’s Centre for International Human Resource Management is a partner in a £5 million research collaboration that is set to radically change the UK’s internet infrastructure to meet the needs of a revolution in technology in society.

Breakthrough digital innovations such as the Internet of Things, 5G, and virtual reality require a transformation in how networks are developed and maintained.

Jointly funded the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and telecoms company BT, the project brings together multidisciplinary researchers from the University of Cambridge, Lancaster University (project lead), University of Surrey and University of Bristol, with specialist knowledge ranging from networking, communications, statistics and AI to industrial automation and organisational behaviour.

Dr Philip Stiles, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour, will lead the Cambridge Judge Business School contribution, looking at how changes in network design and digital services will influence the nature of work. He said:

This project is a tremendous opportunity to see how transformations in technology affect how organisations and the people within them adapt. The impact of major changes in digital infrastructure and the greater reliance on AI will have major implications for organisational design and culture and also on the interactions people will have with technology. Our part of the project is to explore these issues, which will involve examining the structural, cultural and psychological aspects of transformational technologies.

Dr Philip Stiles

Dr Philip Stiles

The project, entitled The Next Generation Converged Digital Infrastructure, aims to develop a future network that is “autonomic”, with the capability to react and even predict changes in networking demand, reconfiguring infrastructure accordingly with minimal human intervention. This will lead to new services, improved customer experiences in terms of network reliability, and greater agility for businesses which need digital services that can adapt as they grow.

The partnership builds on long-term research collaborations between BT and each of the consortium’s members.

The University of Cambridge will receive £1.5 million to undertake its part of the project. Also working on the project is Dr Ajith Parlikad, Senior Lecturer, and Professor Duncan McFarlane, Professor in Industrial Information Engineering, both at the Institute of Manufacturing.

The Next Generation Converged Digital Infrastructure project is part of a new set of Prosperity Partnerships, which will receive £31 million of government funding from the EPSRC and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) – this will be matched by a further £36 million from partner organisations in cash or in-kind contributions, plus £11 million from universities’ funds, totalling £78 million in all.