A civil engineer and an academic who is an enthusiast for artificial intelligence have formed a new consultancy in London with German backing – to advise organisations on more effective application of information technology, the key aim of the business being to bridge the gulf between the business and the academic worlds. That sounds like […]
A civil engineer and an academic who is an enthusiast for artificial intelligence have formed a new consultancy in London with German backing – to advise organisations on more effective application of information technology, the key aim of the business being to bridge the gulf between the business and the academic worlds. That sounds like a tall order: how does the infant busines plan to set about it? Last week, Professor Revsky explained his ideas for his ambitious new venture to Katy Ring. A new information technology consultancy, Brainin Rzevski Ltd, has been set up in Euston, London, to bridge the two cultures of business and academe. The financial backing for the enterprise has come from the European machine tool trader Gertner GmbH with the company’s Alexander Gertner being one of the new consultancy’s three directors. The other two directors are Robert Brainin (a civil engineer who was until recently retained by Gertner) who will be responsible for managing the business, and Professor Rzevski who, it has to be said, is the brains behind Brainin. The consultancy offers three levels of expertise: the strategic planning of information technology in such a way that it gives companies a competitive edge; the development of information systems using evolutionary prototyping approaches; and the introduction of new types of technology into a business. Mediate The consultancy will target three main markets: the computer industry itself, manufacturers, and retailers. Professor Rzevski believes himself to be placed in a unique position to mediate between academics and businessmen in the pursuit of solutions for clients. On the one hand he has been a software consultant to companies including British Aerospace, ITT, STC, ICL, the National Computing Centre and The Danish Electricity Authority; on the other hand he is currently professor of design with the Open University where he is developing artificial intelligence systems for engineering and business. Perhaps of most significance for the new company, Rzevski founded the Computer Integrated Manufacturing Centre at Kingston Polytechnic where for the past five years he has run postgraduate courses in information systems design and management, attended by senior managerial and technical personnel from companies such as British Telecom, ICL, Honeywell, Philips, Xerox, Racal Electronics, GEC, STC, Austin Rover and Lloyds. Viable This course has established a network of ex-students trained in Rzevski’s methodology, placed in leading companies, who are prepared to support the consultancy. With this network already in place, the foundations of the bridge between academe and the business world would seem to be in place; however, as Rzevski is the first to admit, academic gold comes from highly specialised research and, as an academic, Rzevski must rely on other people’s research as well as his own to offer a viable range of solutions to his clients. Of course, the professor has contacts on the academic conference circuit but, as any successful postgraduate will testify, innovative breakthroughs are jealously guarded until publication. Wrangles To circumvent any nasty wrangles over priority claims, Rzevski will only borrow publicly available knowledge which he, as an academic, can access easily. Such a service would seem invaluable to businesses, which would clearly benefit from keeping in touch with the research community. So if Brainin Rzevski can promise such lucrative contact, why are so few consultancies built around this communication channel? The problem is basically that few people can comfortably move between the two cultures of the business and research communities. The academic ethos is not geared to finding the fast solutions that business requires. Rzevski, however, believes he can act as diplomat and mediator between the two camps. Aided by his network of research disciples with impeccable business credentials, the consultancy intends to ask companies that come to it for advice to set up internal courses for their employees, with education billed as a necessary part of
the service provided. In particular, the consultancy feels that every company that comes to it for solutions must start pursuing its new lines of development with its resident data processing professionals, since it feels that it is illogical to bypass such professionals in the name of commercial success, as these are the very people who need to acquire the skills a consultant offers. Bubbling Education is not known as a buzz word in business circles, but Rzevski is adamant that education is what he is offering, adding that training was for monkeys. His company wants clients to understand the processes involved, not just use them. The professor’s own research hobby horse is artificial intelligence and expert systems. Contrary to the findings of Price Waterhouse’s Managing IT survey (CI No 1,077), Rzevski believes that there is a great deal of commercial interest in artificial intelligence and runs a research club with retailers which develops simple prototypes. In May he will be presenting a seminar on artificial intelligence in manufacturing, specifically aimed at senior managers, which promises to be bubbling over with infectious enthusiasm and straightforward explanations. Indeed, if the combination of astute intelligence and mild-mannered charisma are the hallmarks of success then Brainin Rzevski should be well worth consulting.