Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 61 | 17. Juli 2023

Priority Programme “Hybrid Decision Support in Product Creation” (SPP 2443)

In March 2023, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Hybrid decision support in product creation” (SPP 2443). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

Problem Statement

Technical systems are characterised by increasing interdisciplinarity, complexity and ever stronger interconnections. Product and supporting production system require cross-disciplinary multi-objective optimisation. Due to the demand for sustainability and circularity, the complexity in engineering technical systems with mechanical structures increases even further. In these systems, on which the Priority Programme concentrates, sustainability is significantly shaped by the use of materials as well as operational energy consumption in production and product life.

Many of the requirements for such systems only become apparent later in product life: during product use, decommissioning or material return. Technical systems must be designed to meet the requirements of future markets but must also be designed for production, maintenance and recycling technologies. In such cases, the performance of established engineering methods, such as heuristics, methods, modelling and simulation, reaches its limits. The challenges of circularity, global dependencies and aspects of digital transformation force an increase in the performance of interdisciplinary product creation.

The existing performance limits can only be overcome by “hybrid decision support”, which means combining established engineering methods with methods of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DS/AI) systematically including extreme data. Extreme data subsumes data with characteristics like increasing volume, speed and variety, high complexity, diversity and multilinguality, dispersed sources, sparse, missing and insufficient data or extreme variations in values. Relevant aspects and correlations from product use or return of product components are thereby mapped to the material cycle. New concepts are required in order to deal with extreme data in different formats in product and production system development and to prepare future data situations early on.

Scientific Goals

The objective of the Priority Programme is gaining insights into how processes and methods of DS/AI can be used to complement human capabilities in conjunction with established heuristics, methods, modelling and simulation. This combination aims at increasing the performance of product creation. Combined with established engineering methods, DS/AI have to be used for hybrid decision support.

In the meantime, there are clear tendencies as to which basic DS/AI algorithms, technologies, procedures and methods will reach a sufficient level of maturity. Within the framework of the Priority Programme, procedures and methods of DS/AI are adapted and applied but not developed. The research includes content such as the training of models, the construction of neural networks or the generation of semantic networks.

On this basis, the Priority Programme aims at gaining insights into the achievable effect in product creation and the resulting changes in processes, methods, IT tools and information standards (PMTI). Combined with established engineering methods, DS/AI methods should be able to be used product-related in the sense of hybrid decision support. The core objective is to increase performance in product creation through hybrid decision support. A possible indicator of this is the reduction of the extent of unnecessary iterations by expanding the quality of decision-making without increasing the use of time/resources.

The focus is on the ability to take decisions in the analysis and synthesis of complex, technical systems in product and production engineering. One assumption is that people are relieved of routine activities. However, their capabilities cannot be completely replaced, and fully autonomous product creation is not possible. Following the fundamentals of problem solving and decision-making established in product creation, the Priority Programme covers three focus topics:

  • The human-centred design of hybrid decision support aims at the interface between procedures and methods and the tasks to be supported in the decision-making situation. DS/AI are intended to make available problem-solving skills based on implicit knowledge in engineering applications.
  • Analysis tasks, in terms of problem-related analysis, relate to the situation or, in terms of future-oriented analysis, to the consequences of a decision. Hybrid decision support is required in order to intuitively, purposefully and efficiently collect all the information required for a decision before starting the first functional and design executions in early phases (for instance, problem analysis, requirements elicitation and product planning).
  • Synthesis tasks relate to the generation of alternative solutions and the reasoned formation of preferences. Activities such as the selection of conflictual restrictions, the consideration of Design-for-X and the objective safeguarding of design rules have to be supported. Additionally, hybrid decision support in synthesis is to be used to proactively generate work results such as the functional structure, basic solutions, etc.

The support is for engineers who systematically solve problems of cross-disciplinary and multi-objective optimisation in relation to product and production system. Applicants classify their project within the Priority Programme into one or more of the aforementioned three focus topics.

Work Programme and Constraints

The Priority Programme focuses on the early life cycle phases, i. e. product and supporting production system development. The coverage of all these early phases is to be ensured by an appropriate range of projects in both funding periods of the Priority Programme. Approaches that only work in the later life of the product are out of scope. Only technical systems with a mechanical load-bearing structure will be considered. The Priority Programme addresses scientists from the fields of mechanical engineering (engineering design, product development), production engineering and related areas of application-oriented computer science. It links the disciplinary foundations under the objective of hybrid decision support.

Applicants must anchor their respective project in a comprehensible manner in a relevant product engineering methodology. Such methodology needs to be adequate for the complexity of today’s technical systems. Projects in the Priority Programme must address generalisable issues that can be transferred to different product types and branches of industry. Adaptation to company- and context-specific engineering processes is not part of the Priority Programme.

The aim is to increase performance of product creation, especially with regard to the complexity of the product life cycle and thus the requirements of sustainable engineering and recyclability, which will change over time. For this purpose, criteria for the interpretation and evaluation of the results must be identified. Effects on tasks and required competencies (qualification) from an engineering point of view are considered in research, also with regard to the interpretation of results of DS/AI procedures and methods.

Projects in the first funding period are based on data that are readily available from experimental preparatory work, industrial projects or field trials at the respective applicants’ institutes. Data sets should follow the FAIR principles so that they can be shared within the Priority Programme. The data sets should not be blocked by third-party copyrights and therefore be usable in the Priority Programme’s network and in publications. In the proposal, they need to be described in sufficient depth. The possible generation or use of synthetic mass data must be justified in a comprehensible and plausible manner. In addition, digital development environments are a prerequisite for the research design planned in any individual proposal.

Due to the complex challenges, interdisciplinary cooperation is required. For this reason, researchers from different disciplines are particularly encouraged to submit applications for collaborative projects.


To support the proposal preparation, a short Q & A panel (via video conference) will be held on 12 September 2023. The login information and timeslot will be published on the website of the Priority Programme (see further information).

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 15 November 2023. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. To enter a new project within the existing Priority Programme, go to Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 2443” from the current list of calls.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (DFG form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (DFG form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you already have an elan account, please do not register anew. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 8 November 2023 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

Further Information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

  • Professor Dr.-Ing. Iris Gräßler
    Universität Paderborn
    Heinz Nixdorf Institut (HNI)
    Fachgruppe Produktentstehung
    Fürstenallee 11
    33102 Paderborn
    phone +49 5251 60-6275

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact:

Administrative contact: