The Swedish Board for Industrial Development’s HEUREKA System
The Swedish Board for Industrial Development, together with consultants from NovaCast AB, used XpertRule to develop HEUREKA, an Expert System for evaluating product ideas.
In common with many forward thinking countries, the Swedish Government offers support to people who come up with product ideas and innovations, even though only a small percentage of these ideas ever become successful ventures. According to the Swedish Board for Industrial Development (STU & SIND), their research showed that as few as 2.5% of ideas came to fruition.
With a finite amount of funds, government institutions and sponsoring organizations such as the STU & SIND have experts with the specialised knowledge needed to choose the best projects for funding. However, this expertise is not documented or structured and only available from a few senior consultants. The overload of applications was causing the STU & SIND several problems including inconsistent assessment of ideas, a high failure rate among ideas chosen for funding and processing delays.
The STU & SIND wanted to automate initial project evaluations in order to improve their service, but trials using scoring techniques, patterns etc., did not result in a workable system. They then sought cooperation from NovaCast AB to look into the development of an expert system to capture and apply the experience of their senior consultants.
The first problem they faced was how to capture the expertise. Although the consultants were able to provide accurate assessments of product ideas, they found it difficult to formalise the rules and logic which they were applying.
To overcome this, NovaCast decided to use XpertRule, an expert system tool produced by XpertRule Software in the UK. As a first step five independent viewpoints of assessing a product idea were identified as a basic structure.
the financial potential of the product
the conformity to STU & SIND policy
For each viewpoint, the list of attributes or factors affecting the assessment were identified. When developing the rules for each viewpoint, two particular knowledge acquisition techniques of XpertRule were found to be most useful. Firstly the “Truth Table” method, whereby XpertRule generated all the possible combinations for the attributes of a viewpoint. The experts then identified the correct outcome for each individual case.
Secondly, using the “Iterative Induction” technique, the experts could give a few examples of decision making using basic attributes from which an initial decision tree was “induced”. By inspecting this tree, a need for further examples and/or attributes would be suggested and the process continued until the experts were satisfied with the quality of the resulting decision tree. This second technique was found to be invaluable in viewpoints where the experts found it most difficult to formalise their knowledge.
Mr Lennart Sandberg, the projects manager at SIND sees the advantages of HEUREKA as:
Giving their specialists more time to concentrate on the potentially successful ideas.
Gives more homogeneous and fair assessments.
Applies agency policies consistently.
Gives fewer failed endeavours.
Best utilisation of personnel and finance.
HEUREKA is now used in over 20 STU & SIND local government offices throughout Sweden.