In order for the consortium to come up with the project vision, the LinkedDesign project has a four-fold focus that will be achieved through the following research and innovation related activities:
- Objective I: Data Federation
The challenge: Relevant information about a product is scattered in different formats and locations, and it is tedious and error-prone to search for information across different tools and data formats. Finally, more and more information about a product is not stored in one of the specific structured document formats (like relational data, xml data, Excel files, CAx files, etc) of specific tools, but is hidden in unstructured formats like (the text of) office documents, emails, or (enterprise-internal) forums and blogs. In fact, the ratio of unstructured data amongst all data is estimated to be 80% to 85%, leaving structured data far behind in second place. To summarize: Information resides in a huge number of disconnected information silos, and the user might not have genuine access or -even worse- might not be aware of these silos. Thus, a singlepoint of entry for all relevant product information -independent of its format, location or originator and the phase of the product lifecycle in which the information is created- is clearly missing in current IT landscapes. Moreover, implicit (new) information, which could be derived from existing information by embracing its mutual relationships and interdependencies remains invisible (this is, for example, important in the Volkswagen use case).
The LinkedDesign approach: On its lowest technical level, LinkedDesign will serve as a platform, which federates all relevant product data. This layer will embrace industrial-driven protocols like open data  or the SAP data protocol. A domain ontology will serve as a unified schema to (technically) access all federated data, at the same time flexible for schema extensions to model domain specifics. Schemamatching algorithms will be used to map different data sources to the domain ontology, thus making the underlying source schema transparent to the higher layers and the end users. Object matching algorithms will be used for duplicate detection and data fusion. Finally, with light-weight reasoning facilities, implicit knowledge will be made explicit from the federated data.
- Objective II: Context-driven Access and Analysis of Federated Information
The challenge: In the previous section we have argued that engineers and manufacturers currently do not have access to all product information they need. Nevertheless, engineers are already facing a quite contrary problem, namely overload of unrequired, futile or irrelevant information. According to , it is estimated that information workers spend 13 hours a week with information gathering and analysis, and according to  ―IDC estimates that an enterprise employing 1,000 knowledge workers wastes at least $2.5 to $3.5 million per year searching for nonexistent information, failing to find existing information, or recreating information that can‘t be found.‖ In fact, a system which federates all information sources for products and provides a single point of entry might, due to the sheer amount of available information, not by itself alone resolve the information overload problem. Even if such a system provides a ―perfect search engine‖, which searches across all relevant information silos, it may not be sufficient to provide the specific information that the user is looking for . First of all, search engines usually neglect the context and the role of the user, and thus, do not address his/her particular needs. Secondly, search engines only support *direct* search for specific information, but they do not allow to navigate through the information space in an explorative manner. Finally, supporting data analysis tailored to the manufacturing domain (e.g., analysis of product designs and quality control results to derive optimal manufacturing configurations) is not supported neither.
The LinkedDesign approach: LinkedDesign addresses these needs as follows: First of all, the information to be displayed to the user will be filtered in advance based on the role of the user and the context of theinformation access. Secondly, semantic technologies will be used to support different means ofinformation access, both for direct search (like keyword search and semantic search) and exploring theinformation space (like with faceted search or graph-based information representations) which reduces time spent on knowledge acquisition by up to 50%. Moreover, LinkedDesign will provide manufacturing specificmeans for analysing the federated information (such as sentiment analysis conducted on customer feedback in Web 2.0 channels, or plant lifecycle cost analysis to guide the design of manufacturing processes) which improve and accelerate product and process design to increase product quality and at the same time decrease time-to-market by over 20%. Finally, the front-end of LEAP will be developed as Virtual Obeya, a virtual control center where all information are integrated and are shared at desks for each involved actor as well as user-centered or role-based workspaces.
- Objective III: User Collaboration
The challenge: With the previous two objectives, the envisioned LinkedDesign platform is clearly an improvement of existing solutions for data federation (like enterprise search systems or MS SharePoint), but they still only focus on an integrated access to the data and do not attempt to provide an integration of people and processes as well. However, networking and knowledge exchange between people are becoming increasingly important. As already outlined, this is particularly important to improve manufacturing processes: a closer integration of the different phases in a product lifecycle assumes the collaboration of the respective actors of these phases (designers, engineers, manufacturers, etc), but current collaboration platforms and approaches are still fragmented and disconnected and do not support true lean engineering to the desired extent. In the last decade a variety of social network tools has been developed, both in the web sphere (for example, social networking platforms) as well as enterprise internal collaboration platforms (Enterprise 2.0 tools and platforms like semantic media wikis used within companies). However, while these tools represent potentially very valuable, rich sources of information, none of these tools or platforms are currently well integrated in lean engineering processes. As a result, they fail to effectively fill the knowledge gaps observable in current core engineering systems, handling mostly structured data and information.
The LinkedDesign approach: LinkedDesign attempts to combine best practices and features from information integration systems and collaboration platforms through a new approach extending lean collaborative engineering with a collaboration workbench and rich, intra-organisational social networkfunctionalities to find competences and foster know-how exchange inside a company, especially acrossdepartments and domain responsibilities reducing the number of incidents where experiences are not transferred to subsequent projects by approximately 50%. These tools will be integrated into the LEAP Virtual Obeya.
- Objective IV: Feedback into Existing Systems
The challenge: LinkedDesign does not simply aggregate information from different sources and present the aggregated role- and context-based information to the user. Due to the envisioned features of LinkedDesign as outlined in the last objectives (embracing relationships between different information pieces, applying reasoning facilities in order to derive new information, adding information based on tagging and collaboration support), the information presented to the user is more than the sum of the aggregated source information. For this reason, LinkedDesign must not be a platform which only pulls information from various sources, but it will integrate push mechanisms and other bidirectional integration approaches to the source system as well.
The LinkedDesign approach: In LinkedDesign, we focus on the early phases of the product lifecycle and will develop a tight and seamless integration with CAx-Systems. By doing so, CAx systems will become knowledge-based engineering supported applications. A rule interchange format will be developed which enables an application-independent management of rules and constraints on product design. In this respect, both human users as well as existing systems will benefit from LinkedDesign. By abolishing laborious and often error-prone manual integration of knowledge in engineering systems the overall development time can be reduced tremendously, while the number of automatically supported systems will be multiplied by a factor of at least 5.