MIT Portugal Program research on materials and design-inspired products targets products and associated services resulting from the integration of science and technology (including advanced modeling tools) into competitive solutions for niche markets in the mobility industries (e.g., automotive and aeronautics) and the health sector (medical devices).

About Our Research

Materials and Design Inspired Products (MDIP) is the primary targeted application area (TAA) of the Engineering Design and Advanced Manufacturing (EDAM) scientific domain.

The mission statement of the EDAM scientific domain is the guiding principle behind its efforts: "To develop a new paradigm in Europe for engineering research and education based on an application-driven approach and to promote knowledge-based manufacturing and competitive product development."

This strategy is based on an engineering systems approach, integrating engineering, management, design, and manufacturing. The new education and research program combines lectures and case studies, internships in industrial technological firms and international research laboratories, and applied research to achieve and disseminate sound knowledge in the relevant areas of the program.

Research projects within MDIP provide fundamental knowledge related to engineering design and advanced manufacturing in industries fundamental to Portugal's future. The research strategy has been to develop an educationally-coupled research program, requiring that the research have strong industry interaction with firms having experience in product development, design and other aspects of R&D. Leaders for Technical Industries (LTI) doctoral students are at the core of all the research activities because their research is the pillar of their theses. They are the hubs of research projects that include industrial partners, Portuguese faculty, MIT faculty (some of whom are actively involved in research and others who are in advisory capacities on doctoral committees), and MIT students.

MDIP has a strong industry-university relationship with the potential to develop competitive advantages for Portugal in design and manufacturing, seeking to develop competitive solutions for niche markets in the mobility industries (Systems and Components for Electrical Vehicles) and the health sector (Medical Devices) through industry partnerships and state-of-the-art analytical, experimental and qualitative methodologies that integrate science and technology. The outcomes of the research are expected to grow beyond the program due to the entrepreneurial skills of its graduates.

EDAM is currently directly funding research activities that have both Portuguese and MIT graduate student research assistants working on them and is supporting other research activities that are serving as the basis for LTI theses. These research projects are mainly on topics related to design and advanced manufacturing in the automotive, aeronautical and medical device sectors, and many also include novel research on the product development process. Some of EDAM's research projects intersect and complement MPP's Targeted Application Areas and Projects, but the majority of projects are on topics related to Materials and Design Inspired Products due to the importance of developing projects of relevance to a wide range of industrial affiliates.
Broad highlights of the research activities are:

  1. A focus on product development research as an enabler of developing Portugal's knowledge capabilities in this area. Becoming proficient in product development is likely critical to Portugal's economic future as it moves toward a technologically-based economy.
  2. Introduction of a collaborative mechanism for conducting research. EDAM's research has brought together teams of people from multiple universities and industrial partners who have not worked together in the past. This was first demonstrated in a pilot project on lightweight materials in automotive body components that included students and faculty from multiple Portuguese universities, students and faculty from MIT, and employees of AutoEuropa, an important industrial affiliate. The project became a model for other research projects of how multiple partners with unique capabilities can collaborate to deliver high-quality outcomes.
  3. Emphasis on educationally-coupled research. Education and research are intimately tied. For LTI students, there is a reinforcement of the industry and innovation knowledge gained from courses during their internship and research experience. Furthermore, the students' experiences at MIT and in their internships reinforce the understanding of the entire innovation value-chain that is taught as part of the engineering systems-oriented courses in EDAM. These issues are also true for Portuguese faculty: they are learning more about engineering systems and the innovation value chain through their participation in teaching and supervising theses and internships.
  4. Involvement of European companies in research activities. We have been moderately successful in attracting companies for our students to work with and expect to continue to attract additional firms involved in research activities as the global economy improves. We currently have three international industrial affiliates (Rolls Royce, Continental Tire, and General Motors) and twelve Portuguese sponsors. Rolls Royce was the first international industrial affiliate and they have offered their first LTI intern a permanent job and have asked for another LTI intern to work with them. The financial support of affiliates will enable a second phase of the educational and research programs in a sustainable structure.
  5. Developing engineering systems research capabilities among Portuguese faculty. EDAM has conducted two meetings with the entire EDAM faculty on ways to incorporate engineering systems into EDAM research. The second meeting included a review of all EDAM research projects by evaluators from MIT and Portugal and a specific assessment of engineering systems content in each project. These research activities combined with faculty teaching activities and visits to MIT are essential components of developing engineering systems knowledge within Portugal's engineering experts.

Targeted Application Projects:

  • Systems and Components for Electric Vehicles (EVs)
  • Medical Devices